The History of the Dala Horse

5 11 2019

If you missed attending the SAHSWI annual meeting on October 12 you also missed the very interesting presentation by board member John Elliott.

Treasured in many Swedish homes, the Dala Horse has become a symbol of the Swedish province of Dalarna and of all Sweden. John presented the history of this colorful wooden horse and showed his collection of Dala Horses he acquired through the years. John Elliott is second generation Swedish, previously worked in Stockholm Sweden and has developed a close bond to Sweden and its culture. He has many relatives in Sweden and commented “Doing Swedish history research is a nice outlet from my corporate Engineering IT job”.

Please find here a summary the presentation The history of the Dala Horse

John also shared a video showing more details how Dala horses are made


Santa Lucia Celebration

17 10 2019

Come to the 2019 Traditional Swedish Santa Lucia celebration

Sunday, December 8, 2019, 5 – 7 p.m.

Whitnall Park Lutheran Church, 5847 Lilac Lane, Hales Corners

105th and Forest Home Avenue, (just east of Hwy. 100) in Hales Corners, WI

Directed by SONIA HUMMEL

Celebrate St. Lucia Day with us. Welcome the Christmas season with a celebration of light in the darkness of winter. Hear the story and beautiful music of the Swedish celebration of Lucia. Lucia, crowned with candles and dressed in white will lead her procession of attendants (tärnor) each carrying a candle, starboys (stjarngossar), gingerbread boys (pepparkaksgubbar) and elves (tomtenissar).

Then join the traditional dancing around the Christmas tree. Visit with Santa while enjoying coffee and treats including traditional Swedish Christmas dishes. If you can, bring a dish to share.

Save the date for the next event

Saturday January 11, 2020 1:30 PM Swedish Opera singer Christina Nilsson, presentation by Carol Gustafson

A Rags to Riches Story – The life of Christina Nilsson, the famous Swedish opera singer, will be told by SAHSWI member Carol Gustafson, her great, great niece.  Christina was born August 20, 1843 in Sjöabol/Snugge outside Växjö and died November 20, 1921.  Christina sang at the opening night of the New York Met in 1883.  She was very popular in the USA, Russia, the UK and France. Carol has visited her homestead, now a museum in Sweden as well as her mansion Villa Vik and mausoleum in Växjö. It’s a fascinating story of a poor girl from southern Sweden who became a world renown opera singer.

Recent events

15 07 2019

Saturday October 12, 2019 at 1:30. The annual Swedish American Historical Society of Wisconsin meeting was held at Redemption Lutheran Church, 4057 North Mayfair Road (Hwy. 100, just north of Capitol Dr.) Wauwatosa, Wisconsin.

Program. Treasured in many Swedish homes, the Dala Horse has become a symbol of the Swedish province of Dalarna and of all Sweden. SAHSWI member John Elliott presented the history of this colorful wooden horse and showed his collection of Dala Horses he acquired through the years. Some attendants also brought their own to show. Over the years, horses have appeared in different colors and new siblings (roosters and pigs) have been added to the family.

Saturday October 5, 2019 10 am – 6 pm. The 29th annual indoor Scandinavian Festival will be held at Ronald Reagan Elementary School, 4225 South Calhoun Rd, New Berlin, WI. See Scandinavian Festival for further details.

Swedish American Historical Society of Wisconsin participated with a booth where visitors could learn about historical projects and programs, the first Swedish settlers, or buy typical Swedish items donated to the organization.

Swedish American Historical Society booth at he 2019 Scandinavian festival

The festival is a joint event with organizations relating to the Nordic countries, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Island, and Sweden forming the Nordic Council. About 750 people attended the event, including vendors and hosting organizations personnel, and 515 visitors.

2019 Midsommar in Wisconsin

30 06 2019

The Wisconsin 2019 Midsommar celebration was held Sunday, June 23, at the Heidelberg Park at Bavarian Bierhaus in Glendale. The celebration was attended by about 125 people of all ages.

A message from Swedish American Historical Society President Barbara Froemming:

“A warm thanks to all coming and sharing this traditional Swedish celebration of summer with flower crowns, majstang, dancing and games. It is rewarding to see all the returning guests from previous years as well as new. We hope this wonderful tradition will go on for ever”

To all the volunteers:

“Thank You!  Thank You!  Thank You! After all the angst over the weather forecast and our planning concerns as to whether or not we had all of our bases covered for supplies, equipment, and “people power” to set up and present our annual Midsommar festivities, everything turned out sooooo well.  I just can’t thank each and every one of you enough.”

What better way is there to record this historical event than to do it with pictures. Most pictures below are provided by the Photographer Bob Stetson.

Preparing, procession and raising the Maypole “Majstång”

The traditional dances around the pole, “små grodorna” (the little frogs), “vi äro musikanter” (we are all musicians) and other popular song and dances. Norwegian Lykkeringen Folk Dancers performance.

Blomsterkranserna “the flower crowns”

The games, Kubb, sack raises, face painting, and tug-a-war

Swedish meatballs, strawberry cake, and more

Wisconsin people celebrating Midsommar

Hoping to see everyone and more at the 2020 Midsommar celebration

Anders Berglund, Immigrant from Sweden, settler in Bishop Hill

13 05 2019

In the 5/11/2019 program of the Swedish American Historical Society Member and Author Martha Bergland presented the story of her ancestor Anders Berglund who arrived at Bishop Hill in 1847 to join the Swedish colony.  This is a fascinating story of a young man in Sweden brought up under difficult circumstances and hardship leaving his home country to seek a better and more meaningful life in the USA. At age 63 Anders wrote a letter describing his life in Sweden and the reasons for his immigration to the USA. Below are sections of Anders’s letter with Martha’s comments:

(Martha) Anders Berglund wrote about leaving home as a boy to go to work.

In my early years, small for my age and with a weak body, I had to leave my dear childhood home and my beloved mother and go out into the world to get food and clothing to support myself.

Martha) Like most Swedish children of the lower classes in the first half of the 19th century, Anders left his home around the age of twelve to be a servant. Under contract from September to September, they would live with another slightly better off farm family, perhaps relatives, like Anders who lived and worked for uncles. Boys were hired for a year at a time to care for cows and sheep and oxen and to work in the fields. They often slept in barns and sheds. Girls worked in the house taking care of young children, the garden, chickens, fowl, milking cows, making cheese, weaving, and cleaning. Near larger towns or manufacturing areas, the children may have worked in grain mills or saw mills.

With poor upbringing I only had my mother’s … simple advice and … no more education than the ability to read a book. I was strongly frugal with what I had, and was eager to work and faithful in my service to my uncles on my mother’s side, who gladly employed me and cared for me in a physical sense. But about my soul and my needs for my spiritual life, they seemed to have no understanding. On that subject they left me alone in darkness and ignorance and I had to work it out all by myself the best I could.

Anders and Britta Berglund

History of Bishop Hill. Erik Jansson, leader of the Janssonist religious sect in Sweden left Sweden in 1846 guiding his dedicated followers to America where he established the Swedish Colony of Bishop Hill in Illinois.  For several decades, letters home to Sweden extolling the fertile agricultural land in the Midwest stimulated migration for more than 1000 of his followers.  Bishop Hill Colony population increased and flourished as it grew, but the colorful and dramatic history of the colony ended in 1861. With the site presently preserved as Bishop Hill Historic District, the story of the colony of Bishop Hill is an intriguing history of a group of Swedish American immigrants to the Midwest.

Video below is produced at the Moraine Valley Community College Library by Troy Swanson.