Recent Programs

October 21, 2022, Berggren Tiles presented by John Elliott

At the SAHSWI Fika meeting on October 21, 2022 John Elliott, SAHSWI Vice President discussed Berggren tiles, which are decorated in Swedish folk tradition style known as “Dalmålningar”. The Berggren tiles were made by Berggren Trayner company which was founded by Arthur and Audrey Berggren 1948. The company created silk screened ceramic and enamelware decals in Swedish style – decorative cookware, cutting boards, porcelain, china and ceramic tiles.

These products became very popular during the 1960’s and is an example of influence of Swedish design in America.

Floral Kurbits.

The folk painting from Dalarna, in the center of Sweden, is one of the most charming trademarks of Sweden. The floral kurbits and painted wall scenes have become known as the “Signature of Sweden. The kurbits is an invented, fantastical symbol of vegetal fertility based on a gourd or pumpkin of biblical legend, and was used for ornamentation in Swedish folk art and on painted furniture and domestic objects.

John analyzed why these products became so popular. The third generations Swedish Americans were in their prime age in the 60’s. Grandpa and/or grandma immigrated from Sweden in the early 1900’s, mom and dad married early 1930’s and had a child 9 months later. In the early 1950’s the third generation got married, got a house in the suburbs, monthly payments $59 a month, had typically three children and a dog named Lassie. Times were good, they shopped at the new malls at Field’s or Carson’s. There they found the Berggren tiles and other products.

John showed his collection of Berggren tiles. Many of the tiles includes popular Swedish phrases, like “Tala är Silver men Tiga är Guld” (Talk is Silver but Silence is Gold), “Hem, Kära Hem” (Home, Sweet Home), “Glad såsom fågeln i morgonstund” (Happy as the bird in the morning) and many more.

When he remodeled his kitchen, he added a display of Berggren tiles above the kitchen sink.

Berggren products fell out of favor in the 1980’s as society moved to more contemporary designs. Berggren sold his business to Bergquist Imports (Minnesota) in 1986, who purchased the licensing, designs and the ceramics recipe. Bergquist retired and sold out in 2021, however, the business still is operating as a wholesale company. Bergquist giftshop

The vintage original Berggren tiles are still being sold at reasonable prices…this is an ebay screenshot

The whole presentation by John Elliott is available as a pdf here.

Berggren Tiles by John Elliott

March 2021 ZOOM meeting Svenska Låtar (Swedish songs)

The SAHSWI March 2021 meeting featured Carol Gustafson and Mary Stetson, artistic name “Goda Vänner”, where they presented and and performed a program about Traditional Swedish Folk Music. Being American, learning Swedish Musical Language goes beyond learning melodies. Carol and Mary discussed and demonstrated how to sound Swedish in various types of Swedish folk tunes: Gånglåt, Vals, Schottis, Polska, and Mazurka. All songs are played by and recorded by Carol and Mary.


A gånglåt category includes a fiddle-tune in an easy, 4 4 or 2 4 march meter. The name in Swedish means “walking tune”, and the traditional tempo is that of a stately walk like a processional march for a ceremony; i.e. Midsummer

Gånglåt Äppelbo
Drottningens Marsch


Vals (Waltz) can be Relaxed or Quick, ¾ Time with emphasis on 1st beat.

Christina’s Waltz (Written by Christina Nilsson) – Relaxed
Fisk Vals


Schottis is similar to a Marching Tune; A happy, upbeat tune

The World’s best Schottis
Plog Anders Rattig


  Polska includes a wide variety of music. The emphasis is on 1st and 3rd beats and is often used for a Hambo

Wigers Polska
Boda Polska


  Mazurka has ¾ time – emphasis on the 2nd beat; The Mazurka dance came from Poland

Masurka Druttchikaleken

In the second part this program Carol and Mary discussed a meeting they attended about the Snoose Boulevard festival. This popular festival in the 1970’s was broadcasted all over United States, and also in Sweden.

Snoose Boulevard festival

Snoose Boulevard. The main street in a Scandinavian neighborhood was known in early 1900’s as “Snoose Boulevard”. In Chicago that was Chicago Avenue; in St Paul, Payne Avenue; and in Minneapolis, Cedar Avenue. In Minneapolis, on Saturday nights thousands of Scandinavians, Czechs, Slovaks, Irish, Germans and other Minneapolitans would come to Cedar Avenue and Seven Corners looking for a good time. They came to dance, drink and socialize in the bars, halls and theaters that lined Cedar and Washington Avenues. Swedish vaudeville at Dania Hall and the Southern Theater were major attractions. Scandinavians were the largest groups of revelers and many enjoyed “snus” (Swedish for a wet tobacco, enjoyed under the lip), which was often left on the streets after they went home. Cedar Avenue earned the epithet “snus gatan” (Snoose Boulevard). (Source: Augsburg Digitours)

Snus Boulevard Festival started in 1972 on Cedar Street in Minneapolis. Folklorist and musician Maury Bernstein organized in Cedar-Riverside the Snoose Boulevard Festival, a weekend-long revival and celebration of the songs popular along Cedar Avenue between the 1880s and early 1950s. There was dancing, and the street rang to the lively and melancholy songs of the Scandinavian pioneers. The festival was held to tell the story of immigration. In 1973, the festival was on 102 NPR radio stations. The tradition ended in 1977. (Source:

Anne-Charlotte Harvey, Swedish Immigrant, Lead Singer for Snoose Boulevard Festival has released 4 albums and 1 single between 1972 and 1986.

“Chikago (Chicago)” – Memories of Snoose Boulevard, 1972

“Nikolina” – Memories of Snoose Boulevard, 1972

At the end of the program Carol asked all the participants to sing along with Anne-Charlotte Harvey, for the Swedish Immigrants, a popular song, Hälsa Dom Därhemma, some of the Swedish immigrants really missed their home country.

“Hälsa Dem Därhemma (Greet Those at Home)” – Memories of Snoose Boulevard, 1972

If you want to hear or recollect more of these songs, search the internet for the album illustrated below.

Saturday January 16, 2021. Swedish Traits.

SAHSWI first meeting in 2021 was held Saturday January 16 virtually via ZOOM. After Society updates and the traditional happy birthday celebration the main topic for the meeting was “Facts about Swedish Traits” presented by board member John Elliott. 31 members attended the meeting.

Program description: The population of Sweden is one of the happiest in the world. In the U.N. Sustainable Development Solutions Network World Happiness Report, 2020Sweden ranks number 7. A high GDP per capita, an emphasis on social equality that is built into the education system starting in kindergarten, 16 months of paid family leave that can be split between a couple after a new child is welcomed into a family, and free day care also make Sweden the best country for women. Basically, an emphasis on work-life balance leads to a happier populace. Turns out feeling productive and rested leads to major smiles.  

Are the traits that Swedes possess make them happy? One of the key characteristics of Swedish culture is that Swedes are egalitarian in nature, humble and find boasting absolutely unacceptable. They are very athletic and hardy, very punctual, and they have everything exactly set.

John Elliott discussed many interesting and some unexpected facts about the traits that Swedes possess. Please find below the complete presentation.

2021-01-16 – Swedish Behaviors Presentation Download

Happy Birthday, Ja må du leva: Smörgåsbandet

Ja må hon leva: Sofia Talvik

Saturday October 10, 2020 SAHSWI 2020 Annual General Meeting

The Swedish American Historical Society of Wisconsin, Inc. held it’s annual meeting on Saturday October 10 virtually via ZOOM. The ZOOM meeting was administered by Society Board Member John Elliott and chaired by President Barbara Froemming and included:

  • Presentation of society annual reports. The reports are available on the website for one month, see link Annual Reports 
  • Election of directors. George Lofgren, Milwaukee, and JoAnn Kreimendahl, Menomonee Falls were elected for a 3 year term expiring in 2023.
  • Update of Society activities. Barbara Froemming reviewed activities since the previous Annual Meeting. Due to the affects of the Covid 19 pandemic only two public meetings were held – The 2019 Lucia Celebration and a 2020 February meeting featuring a Presentation by member Carol Gustafson about opera singer Christina Nilsson. For further information see page Recent Programs.
  • Presentation of Wisconsin Historical Marker project. John Elliott presented a project initiated by Jan Ehrengren to recognize Gustaf Unonius and The New Upsala first Swedish settlement in Wisconsin with an official State of Wisconsin Historical Marker. See link to the presentation: Wisconsin Historical Marker project pdf
  • As a wrap-up of the meeting Society members Carol Gustafson and Mary Stetson performed Swedish music on violin.

Saturday February 8, 2020 Christina Nilsson World Famous Swedish Opera Singer.

A Rags to Riches Story – Christina Nilsson

The life of Christina Nilsson, the famous Swedish opera singer, was told by SAHSWI member Carol Gustafson, her great, great niece. The meeting was held at Redemption Lutheran Church in Wauwatosa.

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 talked about her visit to Christina’s homestead, now a museum in Sweden as well as her visit to the 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.

After the presentation Carol and Mary Stetson, artistic name “Goda Vänner”, performed 2 songs written by Christina Nilsson. They also sang and invited to the audience to join in singing Christina’s signature Swedish Folk song: “Fjorton ar tror jag visst att jag var” translated “I think surely I was fourteen years old”. She also shared a link to the song performed by Mia Marianne and Per Filip.

See additional Christina Nilsson stories

Saturday October 12, 2019 The History of Dala Horses.

Program. Treasured in many Swedish homes, the Dala Horse has become a symbol of the Swedish province of Dalarna and of all Sweden. SAHSWI board 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. John Elliott is second generation Swedish, previously worked in Stockholm Sweden and has developed a close bond to Sweden and its culture. John has many relatives in Sweden and commented “Doing Swedish history research is a nice outlet from my corporate Engineering IT job”.

A summary of Johns presentation “The history of the Dala Horse”

In addition to presentation John also shared the following video showing in more detail how the Dala horses are made.

Saturday October 5, 2019 10 am – 6 pm. Scandinavian Festival.

The 29th annual indoor Scandinavian Festival was held at Ronald Reagan Elementary School, 4225 South Calhoun Rd, New Berlin, WI. The program is published in the Scandinavian Festival website.

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.

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