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. The following lists represent some of the major contributors.


  • GUSTAF UNONIUS; Settlement Founder. Clergyman. Letters to Sweden attracted immigration to Pine Lake Settlement of New Uppsala and Wisconsin.
  • CARL FRIMAN AND FAMILY; First Swedish Settlers and landowners near Genoa City in Wisconsin
  • OSCAR GOTTFRIED (GEORGE) LANGE; First Swede known to settle in Milwaukee. Clerk and translator who guided settlers including Unonius to land claims. Business clerk. Moved to Chicago in late 1860’s.
  • POLYCASPUS VON SCHNEIDAU; Arrived 1842 as a Pine Lake settler and moved to Chicago in 1844 becoming a daguerreotypist (Photographer). His daughter was an aunt of Winston Churchill.
  • FREDRIKA BREMER; Swedish author and traveler, visited Pine Lake in 1850 and wrote about it in “Houses in the New World”
  • THURE KUMLIEN; Arrived in Wisconsin from Sweden in 1843 to Koshkonong settlement. Ornithologist and zoologist who taught natural history. Early staff member of what became Milwaukee Public Museum. Died 1888 – age 69
  • KNUTE D. PETERSON: Private secretary of President of Northwestern Mutual Life. Grandson of Knute (Bengt) Petterson of Unonius colony. His grandfather was buried at cemetery near Pine Lake. Grandfather came to U.S on same boat in 1843 as did Thure Kumlien.

Late 19th to Early 20th Century

  • GEORGE P. LINDEMAN. Tailor and prominent Milwaukee business man, active in public and political life of Scandinavian Republican Club. Led local Lincoln campaign in 1860 and was grand master of downtown torch light parade for Lincoln)
  • OLAF E. DREUTZER. Born: Gothenburg, 1816. Came to U.S. in 1830. Studied law in Milwaukee, moved to Waupun, elected county judge. Appointed by President Lincoln as American Counsel in Bergen, Norway, during the Civil War
  • CHARLOTTE BERGWALL. Her family was part of the early Unonius settlement at Pine Lake. She was an early graduate of the Whitewater Normal School and taught for a time in rural schools. She later joined the staff of Milwaukee Public School System. In the 1890’s was appointed principal of the newest Milwaukee School built on the south side.
  • HAKANSON Brothers. EMIL and RUDY HAKANSON were prominent early auto dealers in Milwaukee and public figures. Emil was a notable auto racing driver, driving historic types of stock cars noted for speed and durability. His brother Rudy was active in city civic affairs and in 1934 elected President of the Milwaukee Brewers Baseball Club.
  • THORSTEN LINDBERG. A Swedish born Commercial Artist, Lindberg was trained in Stockholm’s Royal Academy. He came to the U.S. in 1900 (Chicago) and moved to Milwaukee in 1911, specializing in mural painting. Examples of his mural work can be seen today in what was the Milwaukee Auditorium’s Juneau, Walker and Kilbourn Halls.
  • OTTO D. BJORKQUIST. B. 1822 D. 1903. A very successful 19th century Swedish American businessman. After several decades of successful business in Central Wisconsin, he moved to Milwaukee in 1869, becoming a jobber and later manufacturer of boots and shoes. By 1881, his firm was doing several hundred dollars in annual trade that extended throughout the Midwest. His son, also named Otto, became his partner. When the father retired in 1903, he was listed in the Milwaukee City Directory as a “retired capitalist”

The 20th Century

  • GRETA GARBO. Internationally known actress in Sweden and Hollywood. She owned real estate property at several sites in Milwaukee.
  • HANS PETER DAHLSTRAND. Born. 1874.  Design Engineer at Allis Chalmers.  Owned many patents for steel turbines.  Trained as engineer in Sweden, he became famous in his field at Allis Chalmers in U.S.A.
  • CARL SANDBERG. Reform –minded. Journalist/Socialist political candidate. Private Secretary for Milwaukee’s 1st Socialist Mayor. Writer of excellent Lincoln biography
  • INGRID BERGMAN. World famous movie actress. One of her best roles was biography of Golda Meier, famous Israeli political leader who spent much of her early life in Milwaukee.
  • IRVINE L. LENROOT. 1869 – 1949   Lawyer, judge, United States Senator from Wisconsin.   Born of Swedish immigrant parents.  Elected to House of Representatives in 1908.   Elected to Senate in 1918 and 1920.  Appointed a Federal judge in 1928 and served until 1944.
  • WM. H. REHNQUIST. Achieved judicial fame when he became 16th Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in 1986.  His Swedish immigrant grandfather was a skilled master tailor in Milwaukee and active religious leader in the Covenant Church. 



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