Swan Turnblad

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Swan J. Turnblad, 1890s

Swan J. Turnblad (October 7, 1860 – May 17, 1933) was an American newspaper publisher. Turnblad was the manager of the Svenska Amerikanska Posten, a Swedish language newspaper in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Later in his life he donated property and money to help create the American Swedish Institute.

Early life[edit]

Turnblad was born Sven Johan Olofsson in Tubbemåla, Vislanda, Kronoberg County, Småland, Sweden in 1860. His family were farmers but, following a series of bad harvests, they decided to immigrate to the United States in 1868. The family settled in Vasa Township, Goodhue County, Minnesota, where there was already a sizable community of Swedish immigrants. He attended local schools and after graduating high school he worked as a teacher and helped with the family's farm for several years. In 1878 he moved to Minneapolis, where he worked as a typesetter at several Swedish-language newspapers. Soon after arriving in the city he met another Swedish immigrant, Christina Nilsson (1861-1929). The couple married in 1883 and the following year Christina gave birth to her only child, Lillian Zenobia Turnblad (1884-1943).[1] [2]

Svenska Amerikanska Posten[edit]

In 1887, Turnblad became the manager of the Swedish-language newspaper Svenska Amerikanska Posten. His brother, Magnus Turnblad, joined him as the editor in 1890. Turnblad was very interested in new technology and was the first publisher of a Swedish language newspaper to use a Linotype machine. After acquiring a duplex rotary color printing press in 1903, Turnblad also included color illustrations. Under Turnblad's management circulation increased steadily, growing from just 1,400 in 1887 to 40,000 by 1900. In The success of Svenska Amerikanska Posten together with his other investments made Turnblad very wealthy.[1][3]

American Swedish Institute[edit]

In 1903, Turnblad commissioned the building of a mansion on Park Avenue in Minneapolis. Turnblad had the Minneapolis firm of Boehme and Cordella design a Châteauesque-style 33-room mansion for him, his wife, and their daughter. Built on a combination of six city lots, the home cost $1.5 million ($41.8 million in 2018) and took four years to complete. The family moved into their new home in 1908. While it was their official residence, they spent most of their time living in an apartment across the street after 1915. After Turnblad's wife died in 1929, he and his daughter moved into the apartment full-time and turned their former home into a museum. Turnblad created the American Institute for Swedish Art, Literature and Science (later renamed to the American Swedish Institute), which was housed in his former residence, as a place to preserve Swedish customs and culture.[4][5]

Later life and death[edit]

Turnblad died in 1933. He was buried in Lakewood Cemetery in Minneapolis.[6]


  1. ^ a b Nelson, Olof Nickolaus (1900). History of the Scandinavians and Successful Scandinavians in the United States. Minneapolis, Minn.: O. N. Nelson & Company. pp. 511–512.
  2. ^ Hammerstrom, Lawrence (July 1989). "Christina Nilsson Turnblad, 1861-1929". Swedish-American Historical Quarterly,v. 40, no.3,p. 114-123. Retrieved December 15, 2015.
  3. ^ Björk, Ulf Jonas (2001). "Svenska-Amerikanska Posten: An immigrant newspaper with American accents". In Anderson, Phillip J.; Blanck, Dag (eds.). Swedes in the Twin Cities: Immigrant Life and Minnesota’s Urban Frontier. St. Paul, Minn: Minnesota Historical Society Press. pp. 210–220.
  4. ^ Cavin, Brooks (1971-01-29). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory – Nomination Form: American Swedish Institute". National Park Service. Retrieved 2015-05-17. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  5. ^ "Turnblad Mansion". American Swedish Institute.
  6. ^ "Swan John Turnblad (1860 – 1933)". Find A Grave.

Other sources[edit]

  • Anderson, Philip J.; Dag Blanck (2001) Swedes in the Twin Cities: Immigrant Life and Minnesota's Urban Frontier (Minneapolis, MN: Minnesota Historical Society Press) ISBN 9780873513999
  • Gump, Gertrude (1976) The Story of Swan Johan Turnblad (Minneapolis, MN: American Swedish Institute)
  • Lewis, Anne Gillespie (1999) Turnblad's Castle (Minneapolis, MN: American Swedish Institute) ISBN 9780967439907

External links[edit]