Swedes in American cities

By Leif Carlsson

From the 1880s and onwards the majority of the swedes from the mass emigration ended up in US cities. Generally they settled together in "Sweden Towns". The best known was Chicago´s swede Town which, from the 1880s, was the greatest Swedish enclave of America. In the census of 1900 the number of Swedish born citizens in Chicago exceeded the population of Gothenburg. In other words, Chicago was the second city of Sweden!

There were also great Swedish housing areas in Rockford, Worcester, Minneapolis and Jamestown. 

The main street of a Swede Town was often called "Snoose Boulevard" since the Swedes were famous for their snuff. There were many Swedish stores with imported Swedish specialities. At Christmas time they had Swedish delicacies which were in great demand by Swedish-Americans.

Today there are no "snoose boulevards" but in many cities you can still find shop signs, telling that the keeper is of Swedish origin.

The work of a maid was the most comon work for unmarried Swedish women. The demand for Swedish servants was especially high in the cities. If a young woman was lucky enough to end up i a "good" American family, she was often better off than the male emigrants. The Swedes were especially renowned as carpenters, bricklayers and building contractors. In Chicago there was a saying: "The Swedes built Chicago".

Typical occupations among urban Swedes were those of tailor or dressmaker. Often people started their own tailor´s shop with fellow countrymen as labour and customers.

Those who succeeded in America wanted to tell the relatives and friends back home in Sweden. One way of doing this was to send a newly taken studio photograph in the letter. Like "elegant American ladies" the Swedish emigrant girls paraded in their nicce new American hats. Those who did not have beautiful clothes of their own could borrow some from the photographer.