University of Delaware Library

Special Collections Department


New Sweden
350th Annivesary of the Landing
of the Swedes and Finns in Delaware

 

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“New Sweden: The 350th Anniversary of the Settlement of the Swedes and Finns in Delaware,” an exhibition of books, pamphlets and maps relating to the Swedish-Finnish colonization on the Delaware River in 1638, was on view from March 1 to July 15, 1988, in the Special Collections Department Gallery in the Hugh M. Morris Library.

More than sixty items selected from Special Collections depict the social, political, economic, military and religious life of the Swedes and Finns in Delaware. They include printed accounts by colonists and Swedish contemporaries, early American histories of the Swedish- Finish settlements, nineteenth-century American literary works, and publications from previous commemorative celebrations.

Among the materials on display relating to events in New Sweden are

  • two rare tracts published in Stockholm in 1625 and 1626 by the Dutch entrepreneur Willem Usselinx encouraging the establishment of the Swedish South Company to promote Swedish commerce in the New World;
  • a treatise by Johannes De Laet, historiographer to King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden, published by Louis Elzevier in Amsterdam in 1644 concerning the origins of Native American populations;
  • and a map engraved by Henricus Hondius from the 1638 edition of Gerard Mercator’s and Jodocus Hondius’s Atlas Novus showing Sweden and its provinces at the time of the founding of New Sweden.

Views of the Swedish-Finnish settlements in Delaware include three maps from a series known as the Jansson- Visscher maps:

  • one by Nicholas Jansz Visscher
  • and another by Justus Danckers, both issued after 1682,
  • and a third published in a 1673 German edition of Arnoldus Montanus’s Amerika.

Rare printed materials by the colonists and their Swedish contemporaries include

  • a copy of Martin Luther’s catechism published in Stockholm in 1696 and translated into the language of Delaware Indians by Johan Campanius Holm;
  • a dissertation presented at the University of Upsala in 1731 by American-born Tobias Erick Biorck, son the Reverend Eric Biorck, a Swedish pastor of Holy Trinity (Old Swedes’) Church in Wilmington, detailing the establishment of the Swedish Church in America;
  • and the published journals of Swedish botanist and agriculturalist Pehr Kalm, who traveled through America from 1748 to 1751 and described the old Swedish-Finnish settlements.

A number of early American regional histories included information on the Swedish-Finnish colony in American. Among those selected for the exhibit are

  • William Smith’s History of the Province of New-York (London, 1757),
  • Samuel Smith’s History of the Colony of Nova-Caesaria, or New Jersey (Burlington, N.J.), 1765,
  • and Robert Proud’s History of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, 1797-98).

In the nineteenth century, the story of New Sweden became a popular subject for historical fiction. Examples of this genre include

  • Washington Irving’s farcical A History of New York (New York, 1809), which contains a humorous account of the Swedish-Dutch conflict in America and the fall of Fort Christina;
  • Koningsmarke, the Long Finn, A Story of the New World (London, 1823), by Irving’s friend and collaborator James Kirke Paulding;
  • Printz Hall: A Record of New Sweden (Philadelphia, 1839) by North Carolina congressman and author Lemuel Sawyer;
  • and Two Hundred Years Ago: or, Life in New Sweden (Philadelphia [1876]) by New Castle author Emily Read.

Among the tercentenary materials included are

  • the 1938 English and Swedish editions of New Sweden on the Delaware by Christopher Ward, a Wilmington historian, lawyer and author who was executive chairman of the Delaware Tercentenary Commission and decorated as Commander of the Royal Order of Vasa by King Gustav V of Sweden.
  • The Christopher Wards papers are housed in the Special Collections Department, University of Delaware Library.

All items on display are described in an illustrated catalog published to accompany the exhibit, with an introduction by John A. Munroe, H. Rodney Sharp Professor Emeritus of History, and entries compiled by Gary E. Yela, Assistant Librarian, Special Collections Department. (The catalog is out of print.)


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