Bits of Swedish-American History

Historian Harry H. Anderson has written many short stories relating to the Swedish heritage adopted into the American society. Harry is a Milwaukee historian who served as Executive Director at the Milwaukee County Historical Society until 1998. He is the author of Milwaukee, at the Gathering of the Waters (American Portrait Series), a pictorial and entertaining commentary on the growth and development of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Harry, who is of Swedish descent, is also one of the founding fathers of Swedish American Historical Society of Wisconsin and served as the president from 1975 to 1980 and more recently from 2004 to 2008. He has written and presented many stories related to Swedish American immigration and traditions. Harry Anderson’s stories

Swedish Immigration to America and Wisconsin

Since 1820 about 1.3 million people have immigrated to the United States from Sweden. According to the 2011 United States Census, 4,211,644 Americans, claimed Swedish ancestry. It is little wonder that Swedish immigration to America has had such significant impact on the culture of Americans.

The history of Swedish influence of the life in Wisconsin starts with the Pioneers Friman and Ononius settlements during the early 1840’s. By 1850 the number of Swedish residents had grown to 88. During the 1850’s the number increased to 673. This included the major settlement by Lake Pepin named Stockholm where Erik Peterson led a group of 280 Swedes to settle there, although over half of them died of Cholera during the travel to America. The first major impact of Swedish immigrants happened during the late 19th century and by the year 1900 there were 26196 Swedish born residents in Wisconsin. (Reference Swedes in Wisconsin by Frederick Hale, 1948) Link to immigration history page.

Wisconsin Swedish-Americans

During the time since the first settlers in 1941 there has been and today currently are many people of Swedish origin or ancestry that has made or are making an impact on Wisconsin culture and society.

Pioneers Unonius and Friman family are frequently mentioned as the first Swedish settlers. There are others from this era, like Thure Kumlien who arrived in Wisconsin from Sweden in 1843 to the Koshkonong settlement. Later in 1860s a tailor and prominent Milwaukee business man, George P. Lindeman also a politician led the local Lincoln presidential campaign. Charlotte Bergwall in 1890 was appointed Principal of Milwaukee Public School on the south side of Milwaukee. In the early 1900’s Emil Hakanson and brother Rudy built a prominent auto dealership in Milwaukee, and Emil was also a Race Car driver of stock cars, while brother Rudy was elected President of the Milwaukee Brewers Baseball Club. Among notable Swedes in the 1900’s are Greta Garbo, internationally known actress from Sweden and Hollywood. She owned real estate property at several sites in Milwaukee. Carl Sandberg a reform minded Journalist/Socialist political candidate and a private Secretary for Milwaukee’s 1st Socialist Mayor. Irvine L. Lenroot was a United States Senator from Wisconsin and   appointed a Federal judge in 1928 and served until 1944. There many more and some of them mentioned in the section “Wisconsin Swedish Americans”

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