Swedish colonization of the Americas

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The Swedish colonization of the Americas included a 17th-century colony 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]

Founded by the first (1638) expedition of Swedish South Company (sv), a consortium of Swedish, Dutch and German business interests formed in 1637.[1][2] the colony of New Sweden (1638–1655) 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 and a large part of Norway were part of the powerful 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 conquered by the Dutch, who may have perceived the presence of Swedish colonists in North America as a threat to their interests in the New Netherland colony.


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 immigrants continued to come 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.[citation needed]

Dom Pedro II, the second Emperor of Brazil, encouraged immigration resulting in a sizable number of Swedes entered 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 emigration, and laid the foundations of a population of Swedish-Argentines.[7]

See also[edit]


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]