People, Races, Ethnicity in the U.S. Swedish Americans Part 2

About the Swedish Americans in the U.S. including where they are from, why they left, how many there are, famous Swedish-Americans and more.


Numbers: During the first wave of immigration, in the 1840s and 1850s, only 20,000 Swedes came to the U.S. After the Civil War there occurred the first mass migration, which lasted until the end of the century and brought nearly 800,000 Swedes to America. In the first two decades of the 20th century, another 300,000 Swedes arrived. After 1920, stricter immigration laws and improved economic conditions in Sweden virtually ended Swedish immigration. In 1970, only 736 Swedes settled in the U.S. According to the 1970 census, there were 127,000 Swedish-born Americans and 680,000 second-generation Swedish Americans in the U.S. The number of Americans with Swedish ancestors is estimated at 12 million.

Their Story in America: In 1638, Sweden established a colony in the Delaware Valley, where Swedish farmers introduced the log cabin. This "New Sweden" was in present-day Delaware, eastern Pennsylvania, and parts of Maryland and New Jersey. The colonists prospered and maintained peaceful relations with the Indians. However, Sweden was unable to protect the colony, which fell to the Dutch in 1655 and to the British in 1665. The Swedish colonists remained and were absorbed into British-American colonial society.

Not until the mid-1800s did large numbers of Swedish immigrants come to the U.S. These immigrants trekked toward the Midwest, where they homesteaded and worked in logging camps. They brought with them the Swedish solution to traveling in winter--skiing. During the Civil War, several Swedish-American regiments fought in the Union Army. After the war, hundreds of thousands of Swedes flocked to the Midwest, where it was often easier to find someone who spoke Swedish than someone who spoke English. Besides farming and logging, Swedes worked on the transcontinental railroads.

The Swedes quickly adopted the customs of their new homeland and were accepted by Anglo-Americans because they were industrious, white, and Protestant. The result was that Swedes were quickly assimilated into American society.

Famous Swedish Americans: Poet Carl Sandburg; aerial hero Charles Lindbergh; actresses Greta Garbo and Gloria Swanson; Nobel Prizewinning chemist Glenn Seaborg, codiscoverer of atomic elements 94 through 102; John Ericsson, who revolutionized naval warfare by designing the first modern armored gunboat with a revolving turret, the Monitor, for the Union Army during the Civil War; Joel Emmanuel Haagland, alias Joe Hill, poet and songwriter of the radical Industrial Workers of the World during the first decade of the 1900s.

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