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Wales and North America

The President of the US, Barack Obama shakes hands with our First Minister, the Rt. Hon. Carwyn Jones at the NATO Summit 2014

The Welsh were among the first to settle in the USA and Canada and have since made a significant contribution to life in North America. In the USA today, over ten million people have Welsh last names. In fact, it is thought Welsh Prince Madog ab Owain Gwynedd discovered America in 1170. He sailed from Wales and landed in the state of Alabama over 300 years before Christopher Columbus set out from Spain.

It is often said that Wales roofed and heated America. nearly all the slate used in America for roofing before 1785 came from Wales and Welsh Coal was imported to heat homes, drive the railways and steamships. Skilled craftsmen left Wales to work in the coal, slate, iron, tinplate and steel industries during America's gilded age. Welsh workers brought with them their families, language and formed choirs, even setting up Welsh colonies in Idaho, Pennsylvania, Tenessee, Ohio and New York.

The links between Wales and North America are still strong. Over 250 companies from North America are investors in Wales, and many Welsh companies are increasingly investing and doing business in North America.

Welsh universities and centres of excellence have developed links with North American universities - both for academic exchange and for joint research purposes.

Welsh artists and performers have made their mark on North America and continue to do so. From Dylan Thomas, Ray Milland, and Richard Burton through to present-day luminaries Anthony Hopkins, Catherine Zeta Jones, Tom Jones, Matthew Rhys, Ioan Gruffudd, Michael Sheen and Bryn Terfel today, Wales we can be justifiably proud of the strong impression that its people Wales have made on the North American cultural landscape.

Congressional Friends of Wales Caucus was formed on Capitol Hill in Washington DC to help further develop business, academic and cultural links between Wales and the USA.

Download the guide to the Welsh and North America for more information.