By: Ronald A. Hendrickson
The Swedish Colonial Society, founded in 1909, is the oldest Swedish historical organization in the United States dedicated to preserving the legacy of the New Sweden Colony in America.
At the turn of the century few descendants of the early Swedes and Finns knew much about their ancestors or the history of the New Sweden Colony. In 1906, Dr. Amandus Johnson returned from study in Europe with a wealth of material concerning New Sweden on the Delaware and a determination that the history of the first colonial Swedish settlement in America should be recorded. In 1907, Dr. Johnson met with Swedish officials in the United States to generate support for the creation of a national organization and, during 1908, several informal meetings were held at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania with prominent individuals who shared Dr. Johnson's vision. On January 20, 1909, the organizational meeting of the Swedish Colonial Society took place. On July 13, 1909, H.M. Gustaf V, King of Sweden, accepted the invitation to become the first High Patron of the Society.
The purposes of the Society are to:
Accomplishments of the Swedish Colonial Society:
New Sweden Colony in America commenced in March 1638 when the Kalmar Nyckel and Fågel Grip landed at present-day Wilmington after a four-month voyage. Thus began the first permanent European settlement in the Delaware Valley. Over the next 26 years, sixteen more voyages would bring nearly 1,000 Swedish and Finnish men, women and children to the New World. There are now living in the United States more than 20 million descendants of those original New Sweden colonists.
The legacy of New Sweden also lives in 24 historic sites still preserved in Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland. These locations include 11 colonial-era structures, eight “Old Swedes” churches still with active congregations, three state parks, the American Swedish Historical Museum (the oldest Swedish museum in America), and the fully-functional, full-size replica of the Kalmar Nyckel, New Sweden’s very own tall ship ambassador.
The Swedish Colonial Society, founded in 1909, is the oldest Swedish historical organization in the United States dedicated to preserving the legacy of the New Sweden Colony in America. The Society was the vision of Dr. Amandus Johnson, who also founded the American Swedish Historical Museum in Philadelphia in 1926. Together with the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis, the Swedish-American Historical Society in Chicago and the Detroit Swedish Council, the A.S.H.M. was one of the four original founders of the Swedish Council of America in 1972.
In 1909, H.M. Gustaf V, King of Sweden, consented to become the first High Patron of the Swedish Colonial Society. This honor was continued by H.M. Gustaf VI Adolph, and the Society now enjoys the favor of H.M. Carl XVI Gustaf. In 1943, the Society was granted the privilege to use the “Three Crowns” emblem which, together with the original symbol, now forms the present seal of the organization.
Other significant events in the nearly 100-year history of the Society include:
In recent time, the Society has witnessed a tremendous upsurge in interest and activity. During the tenure of Governor Herbert R. Rambo (2000-2003), the significance of the annual Forefather’s Luncheon was enhanced to match the prestige of our special guests of honor. In 2000, the Society honored Dr. Nils Hasselmo, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Swedish Council of America. In 2001, the Society honored William H. Rehnquist, Chief Justice of the United States and the 1988 Great Swedish Heritage Award recipient.
During the tenure of Governor Ronald A. Hendrickson, Esq., (2003-2005) the Society celebrated the 365th anniversary of the founding of the New Sweden Colony with two special events. In Spring 2003, a two-day celebration of events in three states culminated in a Gala Jubilee luncheon where Ambassador of Sweden Jan Eliasson, Stockholm Lord Mayor Barry Andersson and Wilmington Mayor James Baker joined 300 other notable Swedish- and Finnish-Americans from across the country to honor the colonial ancestors. The highlight of the Jubilee year was the honor of a Fall visit by H.R.H. Crown Princess Victoria to the New Sweden heritage sites in Wilmington and her presentation of the Raoul Wallenberg Humanitarian Award at the American Swedish Historical Museum in Philadelphia.
The Society’s membership has grown along with the increase in public interest in the colonial history of America. Society membership is open to everyone without regard to nationality or ancestry. With categories for honorary members, institutions, individuals and families, the Society membership totals roughly 1,000 people from virtually every corner of the United States and an ever-increasing number of foreign countries.
Twice yearly since 1990, the Swedish Colonial Society has published Swedish Colonial News, a 20-page news magazine highlighting colonial family history as well as modern-day events and discoveries in and around the New Sweden Colony.
On the internet since 1999, the Society maintains the premier web site <www.ColonialSwedes.org> for news and information about the New Sweden Colony.
The Swedish Colonial Society is a partner with the American Swedish Historical Museum and the McNeil Center for Early American Studies at the University of Pennsylvania in the New Sweden History Conference, which each year presents a symposium devoted to an aspect of the history or culture of the New Sweden Colony.
Swedish Colonial News
Colonial Records of the Swedish Churches in Pennsylvania
Volume 1: The Log Churches at Tinicum Island and Wicaco, 1646-1696
The Faces of New Sweden:
365th Jubilee Celebration - New Sweden: Past, Present and Future
Swedish Contributions to American Freedom, 1776-1783
The Naval Campaigns of Count de Grasse
The Instructions for Johan Printz, Governor of New Sweden
Where Pennsylvania History Began
Geographia Americae, or a Description of Indiae Occidentalis:
The Swedes on the Delaware, 1638-1664
Johan Classon Rising, The Last Governor of New Sweden
The Descendants of Jöran Kyn of New Sweden
The Swedish Settlements on the Delaware, 1638-1664
In addition to the above major works, the Society has issued numerous publications of Society history and proceedings.