Swedish colonies in the Americas

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Sweden established colonies in the Americas in the mid-17th century, including the colony of New Sweden (1638–1655) on the Delaware River in what is now Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Maryland, as well as two possessions in the Caribbean during the 18th and 19th centuries.

North America[edit]

The colony of New Sweden was founded in 1638 by the first expedition of Swedish South Company, a consortium of Swedish, Dutch and German business interests formed in 1637.[1][2] The colony was located along the Delaware River with settlements in modern Delaware (e.g., Wilmington), Pennsylvania (e.g., Philadelphia) and New Jersey (e.g., New Stockholm and Swedesboro) along locations where Swedish and Dutch traders had been visiting for decades.[3]

At the time (until 1809) Finland was part of the Kingdom of Sweden, and some of the settlers of Sweden's colonies came from present-day Finland or were Finnish-speaking.[4] The Swedes and Finns brought their log house design to America,[1] where it became the typical log cabin of pioneers. The Swedes, leveraging trading relations with the powerful inland Susquehannock peoples, allied themselves to the Susquehannock and supported the natives in their declared war with the English colony of Lord Baltimore, Province of Maryland.[3][5]

While a Baltic naval power, the international power of the Swedish Kingdom was rooted in land based military power, and when another general war engulfed northern Europe, the Swedish Navy was incapable of protecting the colony. Subsequently, the young colony was assimilated by the Dutch, who perceived the presence of Swedish colonists in North America as a threat to their interests in the New Netherland colony.


The Swedish colony of Saint Barthélemy (1784–1878) was operated as a porto franco (free port). The capital city of Gustavia retains its Swedish name. Guadeloupe (1813–1814) came into Swedish possession as a consequence of the Napoleonic Wars. It gave rise to the Guadeloupe Fund.[6]

Other settlement[edit]

Swedish emigrants continued to go to the Americas to settle within other countries or colonies. The mid-19th and early 20th centuries saw a large Swedish emigration to the United States. Approximately 1.3 million Swedes settled in the United States during that period, and there are currently about four million Swedish Americans, as of 2008.[7]

Dom Pedro II, the second Emperor of Brazil, encouraged immigration, resulting in a sizeable number of Swedes entering Brazil, settling mainly in the cities of Joinville and Ijuí. In the late 19th century, Misiones Province in Argentina was a major centre for Swedish immigration, and laid the foundations of a population of Swedish-Argentines.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b A Brief History of New Sweden in America (The Swedish Colonial Society)
  2. ^ Mark L. Thompson (2013). The Contest for the Delaware Valley: Allegiance, Identity, and Empire in the Seventeenth Century. Louisiana State University Press. ISBN 978-0-8071-5060-3.
  3. ^ a b See or copy American Heritage Book of Indian cites, Susquehannock peoples.
  4. ^ A. R. Dunlap & E. J. Moyne. The Finnish Language on the Delaware. American Speech, Vol. 27, No. 2 (May, 1952), pp. 81–90
  5. ^ See text and cites of Province of Maryland#Relations with the Susquehannock
  6. ^ St. Barts island history Archived 2016-03-03 at the Wayback Machine (St.Barths Online)
  7. ^ "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 31 January 2018.
  8. ^ Svenska Föreningen Historia (Svenska Föreningen)

Other sources[edit]

  • Barton, H. Arnold (1994) A Folk Divided: Homeland Swedes and Swedish Americans, 1840–1940. (Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis).
  • Benson, Adolph B. and Naboth Hedin, eds. (1938) Swedes in America, 1638–1938 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press) ISBN 978-0-8383-0326-9
  • Johnson, Amandus (1927) The Swedes on the Delaware (International Printing Company, Philadelphia)

Related reading[edit]

  • Jameson, J. Franklin (1887) Willem Usselinx: Founder of the Dutch and Swedish West India Companies (G.P. Putnam's Sons)

External links[edit]