SWEDES IN CHICAGO
by ©Wini Caudell



In 1846 the first party of Swedish immigrants came to Chicago. There were fifteen families and they had no connection with the emigration movement started by profit Erik Janson. They were poor and destitute and didn’t understand a word of English. Coonsul Von Schneidan befriended them and got the men jobs with two Americans W.B. Ogden and A, Smith. They worked hard and eventually became successful citizens.

On October 3, 1846, Jonas Olson arrived in Chicago as the head of the party for Erik Janson who was traveling to Bishop Hill in Henry County. Many of the followers  became disillusioned with Janson and his mission and refused to follow him and stayed in Chicago. One was Janson’s brother, Jan. He stayed in Chicago and became the owner of a large farm in Montrose in Cook County. Others staying were Anders Larsson, John P. Källman, Pehr Ersson, Petter Hessling, A. Thorsell and ? Källström. They all lived for a time in the same house on Illinois street between Dearborn avenue and State street.

In 1847 forty more immigrants came to Chicago and in 1848, one hundred more came.

There have been Swedish people in Chicago almost from the earliest days of the city and their population has steadily increased . In the census of 1900 there were at least 48,836  which is second only to Stockholm.  Also in 1900 there were 98,883 persons born of Swedish parents.

A large number of the male population were skilled workman. They were found in almost every trade and they had the reputation of being honest, hard-working, skilled and intelligent.  They have been credited with making ingenious and practical inventions also. They are cabinet makers, tailors, builders, builders and mechanical artisans. In many instances they were responsible for building up large industrial companies of their own.

The Swedes main goal was to get a home of their own and many worked hard, got loans and property and built their own homes. They are often Republicans and voted in large numbers taking great pride in their new country. They formed an organization known as The Swedish-American Central Republican Club of Cook Co.

The Swedes are known for their religious beliefs and by 1905 in Chicago there were 41 Swedish Lutheran congregations with memberships totaling 15,000 , the Swedish Methodists had 18 congregations totaling 2,520 members and the Swedish Baptists had 11 congregations totaling 2,588. Every congregation carried on extensive work in education and charity. The Lutherans controlled and maintained the Augustana Hospital one of the most prominent institutions of it’s kind in Chicago. Martin Luther College was founded by them in 1892 but discontinued in 1896. They maintained a home for the aged called Bethany Home in Chicago. The Swedish Baptists constructed their own theological institute located in Morgan Park and supported an old age home named Fridhem.

Swedish Fraternal Socities and Lodges
At one time it was thought to be about a hundred of the organizations in Chicago. Many were designed for their pleasure as well as helping with sick benefits, and  funeral expenses of it’s many members.  The two main ones were The independent Order of Svithiod and The independent Order of the Vikings (Vikinggarne) The Svithiod had 38 lodges and 16 ladies guilds. The Vikings had 30 lodges and 15 ladies gulds. . There were 10 lodges of Good Templars, four other temperance societies, a number of lodges of Scandinavian Brotherhood of America, also Free Masons and Odd Fellows. Also Swedish Societie’s Old Peoples Home Association and Swedish National Association.

In the early 1900’s there were at least eight large weekly newspapers published in Chicago. The four largest being “Hamlandet”(The Home Land), Svenska Tribunen-Nyheter ( Swedish Tribune Newspaper)”, “Svenska Amerikananren” (The Swedish American) and Svenska Kuriren (Swedish Currior). The other Four were “ Sändbudet”, “Nya Vecko Posten” “Mission Vännen and “Chicago Bladet”.

A general publishing company was first started in Chicago by the Swedish Lutheran Publication Society.  

Some of these newspapers are still researchable through the Swenson Center at Augustana in Rock Island. They have a web site that will tell you which newspapers they have.

Sources: History of the Swedes in Illinois-1908
              A Folk Divided by H. Arnold Barton


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