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American Swedish Historical Museum relief society records collection


Held at: American Swedish Historical Museum [Contact Us]1900 Pattison Avenue, Philadelphia, PA, 19145

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the American Swedish Historical Museum. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

"[Swedish immigrants] to the United States founded an amazing array of clubs, lodges, benevolent associations, and women's groups for a wide range of cultural, social, educational, and political purposes. These organizations offered collegiality, educational and cultural opportunities, and status. Benevolent societies gave concrete assistance in times of trouble by providing sick benefits and funeral expenses. Because they also offered an alternative for those who objected to the powerful influence of religion and local churches, these organizations frequently drew the hostility of the Swedish clergy, especially when they sponsored "questionable" entertainments, like dances. Nationally, one of the most important of these organizations was the Vasa Order (est. 1898), which had 72,000 members in over 400 lodges by 1928...At their peak in 1910, Swedish American organizations in the United States had at least 100,000 adult members, while there were approximately 365,000 Swedish American church members. The tensions between secular and religious groups broadened over time, however, as elites firmly rejected religious pietism and poorer people found that the societies did not have much to offer them."


Quoted text from: Mead, Rebecca J. "Swedish Migration and Settlement in Marquette County." Northern Michigan University: Recorded in Stone, Voices on the Marquette Iron Range. Accessed March 19, 2012.

This collection includes minute books, a membership register, and other records from several benevolent societies organized by Swedes in America. The societies are: the New England Scandinavian Benevolent Relief Society in Boston, the Norrsken Swedish-Finnish Sick Beneficial Society in Philadelphia, and The Northstar Society. This collection also features one volume from the a Swedish choral group, the Harmony Choir.

The collection includes:

-Seven volumes of minute books, 1853-1939, of the New England Scandinavian Benevolent Relief Society (commonly Skandinaviska föreningen, the Scandinavian Society) in Boston. The New England Scandinavian Benevolent Relief Society was formally incorporated in 1855 and dissolved in 1939.

-Various records including minutes, circa 1947-1957, of Norrsken Svenska-Finska sjukhjälp föreningen [Norrsken Swedish-Finnish Sick Beneficial Society, commonly S.F.S.F. Norrsken].

-A membership ledger with information such as occupation, birth date, etc. of the member, 1879-1926, and 3 volumes of minutes, 1894-1918, of Föreningen Nordstjernan [The Northstar Society] of Chicago.

-A volume of minutes of Sångföreningen "Harmonis" [The Harmony Choir], 1895-1913.

Materials collected at various times by the American Swedish Historical Museum.

American Swedish Historical Museum
Finding Aid Author
Finding aid prepared by Celia Caust-Ellenbogen and Michael Gubicza through the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories
This preliminary finding aid was created as part of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories. The HCI-PSAR project was made possible by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Access Restrictions

Contact American Swedish Historical Museum for information about accessing this collection. Some of the SFSF Norrsken records are currently closed to researchers, due to medical privacy issues.

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