The C. A. Nothnagle Log House
(c. 1638) in New Jersey is one of the oldest surviving houses from the New Sweden colony and is one of the oldest log cabins and houses in the U.S.
The first Swedish Americans were the settlers of New Sweden. A colony established by Queen Christina of Sweden in 1638, it centered around the Delaware Valley including parts of the present-day states of Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. New Sweden was incorporated into New Netherland in 1655, and ceased to be an official territory of the Realm of Sweden. However, many Swedish and Finnish colonists remained and were allowed some political and cultural autonomy.
A victim of one of the earliest recorded murders in North America was an immigrant from Sweden. In 1665 in Brooklyn, New York, Barent Jansen Blom, progenitor of the Blom/Bloom family of Brooklyn and the lower Hudson Valley, was stabbed to death by Albert Cornelis Wantenaer.
Present day reminders of the history of New Sweden are reflected in the presence of the American Swedish Historical Museum in Philadelphia, Fort Christina State Park in Wilmington, Delaware, Governor Printz Park, and The Printzhof in Essington, Pennsylvania.
Swedish emigration to the United States had reached new heights in 1896, and it was in this year that the Vasa Order of America, a Swedish American fraternal organization, was founded to help immigrants, who often lacked an adequate network of social services. Swedish Americans usually came through New York City and subsequently settled in the upper Midwest. Most were Lutheran and belonged to synods now associated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, including the Augustana Evangelical Lutheran Church. Theologically, they were pietistic; politically they often supported progressive causes and prohibition.
In the year 1900, Chicago was the city with the second highest number of Swedes after Stockholm, the capital of Sweden. By then, Swedes in Chicago had founded the Evangelical Covenant Church and established such enduring institutions as Swedish Covenant Hospital and North Park University. Many others settled in Minnesota in particular, followed by Wisconsin; as well as New York, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas and Illinois. Like their Norwegian American and Danish American brethren, many Swedes sought out the agrarian lifestyle they had left behind in Sweden, as many immigrants settled on farms throughout the Midwest. There are towns scattered throughout the Midwest, such as Lindsborg, Kansas, that to this day continue to celebrate their Swedish heritage.
In the east, New England became a destination for many skilled industrial workers and Swedish centers developed in areas such as Jamestown, New York; Providence, Rhode Island, and Boston. A small Swedish settlement was also begun in New Sweden, Maine. 51 Swedish settlers came to the wooded area, led by W.W. Thomas, who called them "mina barn i skogen" (my children in the woods). Upon arrival, they knelt in prayer and thanksgiving to God. This area soon expanded and other settlements were named Stockholm, Jemptland, and Westmanland, in honor of their Swedish heritage. (Stockholm is the capital of Sweden, while Jämtland and Västmanland are Swedish provinces.)
The town of New Sweden, Maine celebrates St. Lucia, Midsummer, and Founders Day (July 23). It is a Swedish-American community that continues to honor traditions of the old country. Gustaf Adolph Lutheran Church was served by a native of Sweden as recently as 1979-1985 (The Rev. Hans Olof Andræ b. 1933 Vimmerby, Sweden) who was known to occasionally conduct special worship services in Swedish.
The largest settlement in New England was Worcester, Massachusetts. Here, Swedes were drawn to the city's wire and abrasive industries. By the early 20th century numerous churches, organizations, businesses, and benevolent associations had been organized. Among them, the Swedish Cemetery Corporation (1885), the Swedish Lutheran Old People's Home(1920), Fairlawn Hospital (1921), and the Scandinavian Athletic Club (1923). These institutions survive today, although some have mainstreamed their names.
Numerous local lodges of national Swedish American organizations also flourished and a few remain solvent as of 2008. Within the city's largest historic "Swedish" neighborhood—Quinsigamond Village—street signs read like a map of Sweden: Stockholm Street, Halmstad Street, and Malmo Street among others. Worcester's Swedes were historically staunch Republicans and this political loyalty is behind why Worcester remained a Republican stronghold in an otherwise Democratic state well into the 1950s.
Many Swedes also came to the Pacific Northwest during the turn of the twentieth century, along with Norwegians and Finns, settling in Washington and Oregon. According to research by the Oregon Historical Society, Swedish immigrants "felt a kinship with the natural surroundings and economic opportunities in the Pacific Northwest," and the region experienced a significant influx of Swedish and Scandinavian immigrants between 1890 and 1910.
Notable influence can be felt in the neighborhood of Ballard in Seattle, Washington, and by the Swedish Medical Center, a major hospital also in Seattle. In Oregon, Swedish immigrant populations were concentrated in the rural areas east of Portland, and a significant Swedish community was also established in the coastal city of Astoria along with Finnish and Norwegian settlers who worked in the timber and fishing industries.