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Register of the Papers of



37 ft.

MSS 41


Judith Felsten

September 1982


Amandus Johnson was a prominent figure in the SwedishAmerican community for many decades.  He was recognized for his historical research and publications, for his vigorous promotion of national SwedishAmerican celebrations, and for founding and serving as first curator of the American Swedish Historical Museum.  He became well known in the Swedish-American community while still a doctoral student.  He was well into his seventies before he concluded that the strain of cross-country fund raising travel had finally outweighed the merits of publishing additional volumes of his History of the Swedes in America.  This decision marked Johnson's retirement from organizational activity.

Amandus Johnson's family was part of the influx of Swedish immigrants to the United States which began after 1840.  He had been born in Langasjo, Province of Smaland, on 27 October 1877.  He was three years old at the time his family came to farm in Rice Lake, Minnesota.

After attending local schools, Johnson attended Gustavus Adolphus College, affiliated with the Augustana Lutheran Synod, for seven years.  He graduated in 1904 with a baccalaureate degree in English literature and a preaching certificate.  As an undergraduate, Johnson heard the eloquent Swedish-American editor Johan Enander speak; he credited this event with awakening his interest in Swedish American history.

During 1904-1905, Johnson continued to study English literature at the University of Colorado where he took a master's degree and also taught modern languages.  Johnson's thesis on the English dramatist John Lyly won him a scholarship to Yale University.  His strong interest in the Swedish colonial period apparently led him to stop in Philadelphia on his way to Yale.  He began to preach for a Lutheran church in South Philadelphia, and won fellowships in Germanics at the University of Pennsylvania.  He took his Ph.D. there in 1908, then held traveling fellowships for research abroad during most of 1908-1911.

Johnson's dissertation research was published as the two-volume history, Swedish Settlements on the Delaware, 1638-1664, in 1911.  Johnson served as instructor and later assistant professor of Scandinavian Languages in the University of Pennsylvania Germanics Department from 1910 to 1921.  He continued to write about the Swedish colonial period, publishing an abridgment of Swedish Settlements as The Swedes on the Delaware, volume one of a projected fourvolume series called The Swedes in America, 1638-1900, in 1914.  (It also was published as Den Forsta Svenska Kolonien i Amerika, by Hugo Gebers Forlag, Stockholm, in 1923.)  Johnson's library and much research material was destroyed in two fires, the first in 1918 and the second in 1920.  The loss included manuscripts for two volumes of The Swedes in America, a translation of Lindestrom's Geographia Americae and a book ready for press, Longfellow and His Scandinavian Studies and Friends.  Although Johnson often alluded to the lost manuscripts; he did not continue the series as originally planned.  In fact, his activities in the early 1920s followed completely different interests.

After serving as President of the Historical Section of the American Division of the Gothenberg Exhibition in Sweden, 1921, Johnson accepted the post of Director of the African Educational Expedition to Angola, then Portuguese East Africa, during 1922-1924.  There he carried out ethnographic research, collecting artifacts and photographing native Angolans, and collected philological information.

In the years after the expedition, Johnson published part one of a tenpart MbunduEnglishPortuguese dictionary (1930) and I Marimbans Land (1929), a narrative about his travels.  (Records of the expedition are available at the University Museum Archives, University of Pennsylvania.)  He also embarked on a lecture tour, drawing on his contacts in the SwedishAmerican Lutheran community to work out an itinerary.  He spoke on the African expedition.  He also privately began to build support for a national Swedish-American observance of the 300th anniversary of the charter of the first Swedish colonial trading company.  Officers of the New Sweden Memorial Commission, originally organized by the Augustana Synod in 1912, joined Johnson in founding the Swedish American Sesquicentennial Association and its parent organization, the American Sons and Daughters of Sweden.  The Sesquicentennial Association conducted a nationwide campaign among Swedish-Americans to erect a permanent museum building on the grounds of the 1926 United States Sesquicentennial Exposition.  Crown Prince Gustav Adolf of Sweden officiated at the ceremonies at which the building cornerstone was laid.  Named after John Morton, the Swedish-American signer of the Declaration of Independence, the building is located in South Philadelphia, in an area associated with the Swedish colonial settlements.

After 1926, the American Sons and Daughters of Sweden began a dual campaign to celebrate the tercentenary of Swedish American settlement in North America, in 1938, and to endow the museum in the John Morton Building.  Amandus Johnson was Corresponding Secretary of its Swedish American Tercentenary Association endowment campaign.  Because of the economic depression, these were difficult years; Johnson lived in the Morton Building for several years in order to keep the museum solvent.

In 1938, Prince Bertil of Sweden dedicated the American Swedish Historical Museum in the John Morton Building.  The tercentenary celebration also included the dedication of Fort Christina Park in Wilmington, Delaware.

Johnson, as museum director and curator from 1928 on, then continued his fundraising and publicity efforts through the American Swedish Historical Foundation.  He continued to successfully interest donors in his plan to create exhibits honoring Swedish American contributions throughout United States history.  Policy differences resulted in Johnson's appointment from Curator to Emeritus Curator in 1943, but he remained active in the museum throughout his life.

In 1908, Johnson had been one of the cofounders of the Swedish Colonial Society, whose members traced their ancestry to the preRevolutionary War Swedish colonists.  Based in Philadelphia, it sponsored monuments, publications, and events to mark Swedish contributions to American history.  Its activities emphasized the colonial history of the Delaware Valley.  During the 1940s and 1950s, Johnson's research and translation interests focused in two publications to be issued over the Swedish Colonial Society's imprint.  The first, two volumes of Swedish colonial documents, published in cooperation with the Pennsylvania Historical Commission, was a joint project with Dr. Johan Liljencrants.  Much of the work was done, but no publication seems to have materialized.  The second, a history of Swedish participation in the American revolution, is the two-volume Swedish Contributions to American Freedom, 1776-1783, published in 1953 and 1957.  Raising funds to publish these two works required great effort from Johnson, no longer young or in good health.  He decided not to publish the other projected volumes of the History of the Swedes in America, 1638-1943, although he published several shorter pamphlets and translations.  He continued to travel, to write, and to take an active interest in the activities of the American Swedish Historical Museum and the Swedish Colonial Society.  He organized a vigorous publicity and fundraising campaign in the American-Swedish community for the Abo Akademi in Finland after the Second World War.  He also collected biographical information from his successful Swedish-American contemporaries, at first for a 1951 film project, and later with the Swedish Museum's collections in mind.

Johnson, like many of the men he admired and won as benefactors to his projects, enjoyed mechanical devices and tinkering.  He owned and operated an auto shop in West Philadelphia during his University of Pennsylvania years.  He designed and sought patents on a number of mechanical devices.  Among them were equipment for microfilming archival documents and designs for manufacturing dartboards.  He also owned and managed several properties, including an apartment building in North Philadelphia where he lived until 1965.

Johnson's 1910 marriage to Helen Mildred Chadwick ended in divorce in 1927.  He did not marry again, and had no children.  In 1965 Johnson moved from North Philadelphia into an apartment in northwest Philadelphia near the home of Esther Chilstrom Meixner, a family friend who oversaw his business affairs during his last years.  In 1970, Johnson moved to the Swedish Home for the Aged on Staten Island, where he died 30 June 1974.  He is buried in the cemetery of Gloria Dei (Old Swedes') Church, Philadelphia.


The Amandus Johnson Papers were deposited at the Balch Institute in 1975 and deeded by the Swedish Home for Aged, Inc. in 1988.

The collection was processed by Balch archivist Judith Felsten, September 1982.  Translation assistance was provided by Ann Kristin Bohlin.  The arrangement and description of the Johnson papers was made possible through a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Photographs found in the collection were separated to Photo Group 126.  Printed materials have been transferred to the library and artifacts to the museum.

Accession #75-17.


The Amandus Johnson Papers consist of correspondence, manuscripts, organizational records, and research materials documenting Johnson's lifelong work to promote an awareness of Swedish contributions to American life.  The papers, thirtyseven linear feet altogether, span the years 1897, when Johnson entered Gustavus Adolphus College, through 1974, when he died at age 96.  They include family, financial, and business papers, as well as autobiographical writings giving information about Johnson's background and personality.  A large part of the collection consists of correspondence, speeches, and other records describing the activities and dynamics of the many Swedish American organizations in which Amandus Johnson was an active force.

In addition, Johnson's long career of research and writing about the Swedish role in United States history is strongly represented through essays from Johnson's college years, articles, manuscripts, notebooks, and translations.  The transcriptions and translations of original archival documents of Swedish relations with North America are comprehensive from the earliest trade efforts in 1621, through 1821.  A roughly parallel series of photostatic and photographic copies of these documents include Swedish consular reports through 1858.


The Amandus Johnson Papers are organized into seven series:  Biographical Records; Professional Associations; Correspondence; Writings; Research Notes; Transcriptions and Translations; and Photostats.  The record types are diverse.  Unless otherwise described below, they are organized chronologically.  Correspondence within each folder falls within the dates given in the folder heading, but the folder's contents are not in strict chronological order.


These records cover a number of activities and are divided into 12 subseries.  In addition to Curriculum Vitae written at different points in his career, Johnson wrote many pages of Autobiographical Narrative.  Typed pages of the narrative are filed with the vitae; handwritten fragments can be found in the notebooks (see WRITINGS, Notebooks below).  The essays and sermons among the Gustavus Adolphus College papers indicate Johnson's early intellectual interests.  Correspondence and Helen Mildred Chadwick Johnson's diary in the Family Affairs folders, and his own Daily Pocket Diaries indicate Johnson's daily concerns and personal relationships.  The many congratulatory letters and telegrams for Johnson's seventieth, eightieth, and ninetieth birthdays give a wide perspective on Johnson's place in the national SwedishAmerican community.  These and confirmations of honorary academic degrees make up the Honors files.

The Financial Records include information about earned income and pensions.  The Property Records and Inventions and Patents files include correspondence, deeds, patent applications, drawings, and ledgers.  They describe property management and business activities, including the development of a store complex in Ocean City, New Jersey; the ownership and management of an apartment building in North Philadelphia; and the development of Viking Manufacturing Company, a partnership based on a jointlyowned patent for a dartboardtarget design.  Most significant among the patents are the microfilm equipment modifications Johnson designed for copying archival documents.  The National Microfilm Association formally recognized Johnson's contributions to the field at its 1959 annual meeting.


Amandus Johnson was a founder or leading force in several Swedish-American organizations.  The organizations with which he had long associations are the Swedish Colonial Society, and the series of organizations that originated for the Swedish-American celebration at the 1926 Sesquicentennial exposition and culminated in the American Swedish Historical Foundation, established in 1936.  The records of these organizations in the collection often give insight into their programs and accomplishments.  There are records from twelve different organizations.  The records of each are in chronological order based on founding date, with one exception.  The activities of the New Sweden Historical Association are so closely related to the Swedish Colonial Society that its records were placed directly after the society's records.

Correspondence from the Society of Arts and Letters, 1920-1925, is the only indication in the collection that Johnson was active in a non-Swedish-American organization.

The Swedish Colonial Society materials include early membership records, some financial records, and correspondence.  The activities files, 1909-1968, describe the society's commemorative projects, annual dinners, and genealogical interests.  The publications correspondence, foundation records, and foundation correspondence follow the work of the society's publication committees.  They include discussion of editorial decisions and fund raising efforts for Amandus Johnson's historical writings and translations, most of which were published over the Swedish Colonial Society imprint.

The Swedes in America film correspondence contains biographical material collected from SwedishAmerican business and industrial leaders, whose success stories Johnson wished to tell on a lecture tour in Sweden sponsored by the Swedish Colonial Society.  The delegation to Sweden correspondence describes a 1954 project to select a group of prominent SwedishAmericans to present the second volume of Swedish Contributions to American Freedom to Gustav VI Adolf, the king of Sweden.

The New Sweden Historical Association materials describe the activities of a group that separated from the Swedish Colonial Society in 1942 to publish The History of the Swedes in America, 1638-1943, projected as a tenvolume series co-edited by Johnson and Johan Liljencrants.  These records include bylaws, minutes, fundraising records, and correspondence.  They follow the development of the association's projects, as well as the 1944 decision to merge back into the Swedish Colonial Society which led to the creation of the Swedish Colonial Foundation.  The translations in the TRANSCRIPTIONS AND TRANSLATIONS series seem to have been made for the New Sweden Historical Association project.

Records from the organizations responsible for the great Swedish American tercentenary celebrations are varied.  They include speeches, articles, press releases, correspondence, and fundraising records.  Although the quantity of records for each organization is small, together they show the direction of SwedishAmerican national activity between 1924 and 1938.  Included here are the New Sweden Memorial Commission, the American Sons and Daughters of Sweden, the Swedish American Sesquicentennial Association, the Swedish American 300th Anniversary Committee, and the Swedish American Tercentenary Association.

The correspondence files on the John Morton Museum and the American Swedish Historical Foundation and Museum are more comprehensive than the formal records on these institutions.  General correspondence, 1938-1967, is roughly chronological.  Correspondence with influential trustees and friends of the museum is separately foldered by individual name.  The subseries also include bylaws, board and committee minutes, articles, newsletters, and reports.

Last among the museum records is a sequence of biographical files, similar to the Swedes in America film files, but intended for the museum's research collections.  These files are arranged alphabetically.

The Abo Academi files describe the organization and activities of the American Friends of Abo, a Finnish university.  Johnson founded the Friends organization to raise money to rebuild the university after the Second World War.  Most of the material is correspondence; again the letters of selected individuals are separately foldered.

Finally, there is a folder of programs and other items from the John Ericsson Society, which met annually on the anniversary of the battle between the Monitor and the Merrimac to honor the Swedish-American inventor.

SERIES III:  CORRESPONDENCE, 1906-1969, 7  l.f.

Most early correspondence, 1906-1928, is arranged chronologically by year.  An alphabetical file that Johnson maintained from 1924 to 1925 has been kept as is. Correspondence beginning in the late 1920s is arranged alphabetically by correspondent. Incoming and outgoing letters are filed separately, but all letters to and from one person can be found in the same box.  Correspondence with several museum trustees, researchers, and other close associates had been separated from the general correspondence; it is grouped with other record series.  To reduce the confusion that this arrangement may cause, a list of these correspondence files and their locations in the collection has been incorporated into the correspondence series box list.

SERIES IV:  WRITINGS, 1909-1967, 6  l.f.

Amandus Johnson wrote for many purposes.  The work here is organized in six subseries, according to type of writing.  The Subject Files, which are arranged alphabetically, include articles by Johnson and others, clippings, and some miscellaneous material.  Most are about Swedish-American personalities and institutions from colonial times through the 1950s.

Political Subjects consists of letters and short articles representing Johnson's opinions on postwar international relations.  The Lecture Tours and Speeches folder includes brochures, lists, and correspondence.  Johnson lectured on his African travels as well as Swedish-American history.  The Travel Articles, apparently written for publication, describe sights in Europe and the United States.

Johnson's Notebooks contain draft texts of articles and longer works.  The autobiographical material traces Johnson's life into the 1920s.  Four notebooks tell stories of the Masongo and the Mbondo (Nbundu) tribes of Angola in Swedish with English interlinear translation.  The other notebooks generally cover several subjects.  A paper slip in each volume briefly lists the subjects to be found inside.

The Monographs include manuscripts of Johnson's longer works and some unpublished projects.  The subseries seems to be most complete for work of the 1930s and 1940s.  There is an outline for Swedish Settlements on the Delaware, 1664-1750; an extensive revision of the pamphlet "Swedish Contributions to American National Life" in 1926; annotated excerpts from the Northwest Territories legislative journals, and writing about Swedish involvement in the American Civil War.  Several manuscripts cover the history of the Swedes in the Delaware Valley through 1841, The series also includes manuscript appendices and footnotes from Swedish Contributions to American Freedom; and complete manuscripts for the Federal Writers Project publication The Records of the Swedish Lutheran Churches at Raccoon and Penn's Neck, 1713-1786, and for The Journal and Biography of Nils Collin, and Naval Campaigns of Count de Grasse.

SERIES V:  RESEARCH NOTES, ?1955, 4  l.f.

The series includes correspondence, notes, notecards, and notebooks.  Correspondence here concerns specific research interests.  It is roughly chronological, foldered by topic.  Georg Hafstrom's letters, the Naval Officers files, the Officers in American Service files, the notebooks and notecards all contain information about Swedish naval officers that Johnson used for his twovolume work, Swedish Contributions to American Freedom.

The Officers in American Service files have been badly damaged by water and mold.  The files were photocopied in an effort to salvage the information, but some information was lost in the process.  Photostatic Service records were removed to the Photostat series.


Nearly all the translations in this series seem to be the work of Johan Liljencrants for the New Sweden Historical Association.  Any translations in Johnson's handwriting have been retained, regardless of duplication.  Liljencrants' handwritten translations of the longer colonial documents have been discarded when careful checking showed that the handwritten and typewritten texts were identical.  (The handwritten translations were fragile and photocopied poorly.)

The documents are filed in three groups:  Swedish Colonial Documents, Swedish Pastors on the Delaware, and Swedish Relations with the United States.  The first folders in each group contain many short documents.  Their translations are chronologically arranged.  The transcriptions themselves are filed in overlapping, chronological groups, according to their sources or Liljencrants' work lists, which help to identify them.

Separately foldered in the Swedish Colonial Documents group are longer documents such as Blommaert's letters; Rising's journal, relations, and memorials; the journal of the New Sweden Company; and Lindestrom's Geographia Americae.

'The records of the Swedish Pastors on the Delaware, who served Swedish Lutheran congregations here before 1831, include journals and long descriptive letters home.  The Nils Collin material include newspaper articles on political issues after the Revolutionary War, and on the yellow fever epidemics in Philadelphia.  There is also a letter in his hand, dated 19 October 1803.  The text of Jehu Clay's Annals of the Swedes on the Delaware features a set of footnotes that Johnson helped prepare.

The documents pertaining to Swedish Relations with the United States discuss military and commercial relations during the late 1700s and early 1800s.  There is an extensive set of letters from the Swedish ambassador to France, Gustav Creutz, who was instrumental in establishing diplomatic relations between Sweden and the United States.  The files also include reports to the Swedish government by commercial emissaries and consuls in the United States, such as Samuel Gustav Hermelin, Henry Gahn, and Axel Klinkowstrom.

Both the box list and the folder heading indicate whether the folder contents are transcriptions or translations.

SERIES VII:  PHOTOSTATS, 1621-1858, 7  l.f.

The photostats and photographs of documents from European archives are the Swedish, German, French, and English originals from which many of the transcriptions and the translations were made.  They are boxed in rough chronological order.  Some images are negative and others positive.  The quality of image resolution varies, often within the same set of documents.  This series is less complete than the TRANSCRIPTION AND TRANSLATION series, but the consular reports span a longer period of time.

The box list of the register of the papers of Amandus Johnson is twenty-six pages long.