Rockford’s Swedish Heritage
Here in Rockford, we've got SwedishAmerican Hospital (including the SwedishAmerican Heritage Center) . We also have the Stockholm Inn, the Erlander Home Museum, The Rockford Swedish Historical Society, the Midsommar Festival, the Svea Sonner Singing Society, and more people whose last name ends with the letters s-o-n than most any other place in the world outside of Sweden.
It might even be a law that you cannot live in Rockford unless you know at least six people named Carlson or Johnson, although I'll have to check that fact out.
The first Swedes to arrive in Rockford began showing up around 1852, but within a few years, there were hundreds of Swedes living along Kishwaukee Street.
According to a really cool Swedish Heritage Visitors Guide released by the Rockford Area Convention and Visitors Bureau (RACVB), there was also a significant Swedish "growth spurt" after the Civil War:
But the real boost for Rockford and the Swedish population came in 1876, when the Rockford Union Furniture Company was organized by a small group of men led by John Erlander, an immigrant from Småland, Sweden. Their success attracted more and more Swedish craftsmen and their families. In just a short time, these hardworking, innovative entrepreneurs built Rockford into the second largest furniture manufacturing center in the United States.
Another surprising note from the RACVB Visitors Guide:
With the exception of Ireland and Norway, Sweden sent more citizens to the US than any other country in Western Europe. In fact, in 1900, Chicago was the city with the second highest number of Swedes, second only to Stockholm.
If you're thinking about your own Swedish heritage, you're not alone: