Swedish Immigration to Rockford

History of the Swedish Immigration to Rockford, Illinois

1852: First train of Swedish immigrants arrived in Rockford on Aug. 4, 1852. They arrived here by chance because the conductor of the train had heard of the cholera epidemic in Chicago and he had instructions to go as far as he could with the train, and therefore, ended up in Rockford.

1876: The Swedish people established the Union Furniture Company. It was the first of 20 similar establishments started by the Swedish people during the next decade.

1879: Former President Grant visited the Nelson Knitting Machine company and said it was the most modern that he had ever seen.

1886: Rockford Elected S.A. Johnson as its first Swedish Alderman.

1890: The Sveas Soner male chorus was founded.

1893: August Bargren was the Rockford Police Chief and headed the force for the next 47 years.

1900: At this time the Rockford Drilling Co. was opened and was later known as Rockford Clutch, it was one of many Swedish manufacturers.

1907: Mark Jardine was elected as the first Swedish mayor.

1928: Bert Hassell made headlines all over the world with his failed attempt to fly from
Rockford to Stockholm via Greenland.
Rockford_to_Stockholm picture taken at Midway Village & Museum center

1929: The Hotel Faust was opened.
It is named for Levin Faust, who was born in Sweden in 1863, came to Rockford in 1887, and helped found the Mechanics Machine Company. Faust also helped organize the Rockford Park Commission.

1944: The Swedish Historical Society started a small museum in the public library branch.

1952: The Swedish Historical Society museum moved to the Erlander Home, at 404 S. 3rd St.
Swedish Prime Minister Tage Erlander presides over the dedication of the museum.
click on picture to enlarge
Swedish Prime Minister Tage Erlander at Rockford College in 1952
pictured with Dr. Mary Ashhy Cheek, then Rockford College President,
and Illinois Governor Adlai Stevenson, right.

  • Display tag Prime Minister Tage Erlander of Sweden LBNL Image Library
  • Erlander, Tage Fritiof

  • 1954: Poet Carl Sandburg visited the Erlander Home.

    1976: John B. Anderson, our local congressman runs for U.S. president.

    1985: The Swedish Historical Society began the restoration of the Erlander Home.

    1987: Bjorn Borg, tennis star, visits Erlander home.

    Swedish people in Rockford and dates:

    1890: 6,204
    1920: 10,480
    1960: 4,087

    Upcoming Events: for 2002

    April 6: Jan Eliasson, Swedish Ambassador to the United States will headline a banquet at Giovanni's restaurant. It will honor the 50th anniversary of the dedication of the Erlander Home.

    Sunday April 7, 2002
    Swedish Ambassador to the United States Jan Eliasson, Sunday April 7, 2002 accepts a copy of the signs that will designate Seventh Street in Rockford as Swedish American Way, given to him by Rockford Mayor Doug Scott.
    The ceremony took place at the Mid Town District offices, which used to be the train depot where many immigrants from Sweden arrived in Rockford.

    April 19: There will be a Swedish immigration exhibit at Midway Village & Museum center.

    April 27: Vasa Park will feature Walpurgis, the Swedish version of May Day with dancing, food and bonfires.

    Aug. 3: There will be a debut of the old train depot on 7th St. to highlight the Seventh Street festival. This depot had arriving immigrants after 1910. The earlier Kishwaukee St. depot burned.

    Other dates planned are:

    June 15, Midsommer Fest; Lucia Fest, Dec. 7; and Jul Fest, Dec. 13.

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