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First Permanent Settlement in Delaware River Valley

July 29, 1937. - Referred to the House Calendar and ordered to be printed

Mr. Allen of Pennsylvania, from the Committee on Foreign Affairs, submitted the following


[To accompany S. J. Res. 135]

The Committee on Foreign Affairs, to whom was referred the resolution (S. J. Res. 135) to amend the public resolution approved June 5, 1936, entitled "Joint resolution authorizing and requesting the President to extend to the Government of Sweden and individuals an invitation to join the Government and people of the United States in the observance of the three hundredth anniversary of the first permanent settlement in the Delaware River Valley, and for other purposes", having considered the same, submit the following report thereon with the recommendation that it do pass.

It is proposed that an invitation be extended to the Government of Finland to participate in the observance of the three-hundredth anniversary of the first permanent settlement in the Delaware River Valley because, at the time of this settlement, Finland was a part of Sweden. It is therefore considered entirely appropriate to amend the public resolution of June 5, 1936 (49 Stat. 1486), accordingly. There are three States involved in this celebration - Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. Your committee has received telegrams from the Governors of Pennsylvania and New Jersey, asking that the law be amended so as to include the Government of Finland in the celebration. The telegrams are as follows:

Harrisburg, Pa., July 21, 1937.

Hon. Samuel D. McReynolds,

Chairman, Foreign Affairs Committee,
House of Representatives.

May I urge immediate concurrence by House in Senate Joint Resolution 135 extending to Government and people of Finland invitation to participate in Delaware centennial. Will appreciate greatly your cooperation in this matter.

George H. Earle,
Governor of Pennsylvania.



Trenton, N. J., July 22, 1937.

Hon. Sam. D. McReynolds,

Chairman, Committee on Foreign Affairs,
Washington, D. C.

Senator Stewart Craven, Chairman of the New Jersey committee to commemorate three-hundredth anniversary of the first permanent settlement of the Delaware Valley joins me in requesting action by your committee approving Senate Joint Resolution 135 and in recommending it to the House for passage. Historic fact support claim that Finns participated to large extent in these settlements and we feel that the President should be authorized and requested to invite the Government of Finland to join tercentenary celebration.

Harold G. Hoffman,
Governor of New Jersey.

The New Sweden Colony

Established in 1638, taken by the Dutch, 1654-55; taken by the English from the Dutch, 1664.

The source for the following statements is Amandus Johnson, Ph.D., the Swedish Settlements on the Delaware, Their History and Relations to the Indians, Dutch and English (2 vols.), University of Pennsylvania; D. Appleton & Co., agents; New York, 1911. The volumes are paginated consecutively and total 879 pages.

Dr. Johnson's book is the only large-scale treatment of the first settlement of the Delaware Valley. Dr. Johnson is a. Swedish-American, and has been the prime mover in the preparations for the 1938 celebration of the tercentenary of the Delaware settlement. Both the author and his work have come to stand for the most authoritative treatment to date of the subject, and can thus fairly be relied upon to furnish an answer to the question, To what an extent did the Finns participate in the settlement of the Delaware River Valley during th years 1638-55, when New Sweden represented on these shores the colonial efforts of the Swedish. Kingdom?

I. Introductory

Before turning to the pages of Dr. Johnson's work for an answer to this question, it is essential to point out a few basic facts regarding Sweden and Finland.

Between about 1150 and 1300, Finland became a part of the Swedish Kingdom. By about 1350, it may be said that Finland had become an integral part of the kingdom. From that time on until 1808-9, when Russia conquered Finland, Finland constituted the eastern half of Sweden, not as a province but, to repeat, as an integral section of the realm. The inhabitants of Finland were on a footing of equality, politically and otherwise, with the inhabitants of the rest of the kingdom and were, as regards participation in the Riksdag, eligable to appointments to positions in State or Church, "native Swedes" in the full sense of the word. During the period of nearly 600 years before the Russian conquest of 1808-9, law and the administration of justice government organization, and educational and religious life in Sweden and Finland came to be institutionalized according to patterns which were evolved in common in the two parts of the kingdom.

These are facts that should be kept in mind in discussing those seventeenth-century developments in Sweden that relate to the New Sweden colony.

II. The Establishment of New Sweden

The New Sweden colony resulted, a was the case with most of the seventeenth-century colonies in North America, from the activities of a trading company. Both money and leadership for the enterprise came from the Finnish part of the kingdom as well as from Sweden proper. (See Johnson, vol. I, pp. 71-72, and cf. pp. 60-61.) Early in the enterprise, Admiral Klas Fleming, one of the leading members of the Finnish nobility, became associated with the New Sweden venture. From the first, he took charge of the affairs of the New Sweden Co., and served as the director of the company down to his death in 1644. Regarding the part played by Fleming in the New Sweden undertaking, Johnson gives a definite impression of substantial achievement. When Fleming died in1644, Johnson says that "the company and the colony lost their best friend and most enthusiastic promoter" (vol. I, p. 230; see also vol. I, pp. 120, 122-123, and passim).

III. Settlers In New Sweden, 1688-66

From the very first, it was difficult to obtain settlers for New Sweden. No settlers came in 1638. In the years following, recourse was had, from time to time, to the capture of poachers, deserters, and lawbreakers of various kinds. (See vol. I, p. 126.)

Among the persons condemned to serve in the New Sweden Colony were many Finns. Some of them had originally moved from Finland to Sweden proper - a considerable number of Finns had moved to the western provinces of Sweden after 1597 - and had run afoul of the law by breaking hunting, forestry, and other ordinances. Other Finns came from Finland directly. See vol. I, pp. 147, 239, 243; vol. II, p. 528.)

The colony remained small throughout the years it was under Swedish control. Johnson reports the following population figures:

Total number of male inhabitants, in 1644


Total number of inhabitants, in 1647


Total number of male inhabitants, in 1648


Total number of "officers, soldiers, servants, freemen", 1654-55


(For figures, see vol. I, p. 330; vol. I, pp. 710, 715, 716-722.)

Not a few of the settlers returned to Sweden, but it is perhaps safe to assume that these figures indicate in a general way the size of the population of the Swedish colony.

The question of how many of the New Sweden settlers were Swedes and how many should be classified as Finns admits of no fully satisfactory answer. Probably the outstanding reason for the difficulty is that the names of both Finns and Swedes were, as far as records are concerned, nearly always given in Swedish. Thus Johnson mentions names like the following as belonging to Finnish settlers: Eskil Larsson; Klement Jöransson, Jöns Påfvelsson, Bertel Eskelsson, Clemet, Anders, Johan, Måns, Clemet Mickelsson, Hendrick, Karin Lasse, Evert Hindricksson, Måns Jurrensson, Hinrick Matzon, Matts Hansson, Knut Martensson, Karl Jansson, Johan Fransson. (See vol. I, pp. 149, 150, 239, 463, 464, note; vol. II, pp. 535, 545, 547, 667, 712, 713.) Thus it is not easy to distinguish, by referring to names alone, between Swedes and Finns.

Both specific information and incidental reference in Johnson's study furnish, however, proof positive and final that the Finnish element in New Sweden was important. Of the 12 separate expeditions which were made to the colony between 1638 and 1656, only one is recorded in a manner that clearly separates the Finnish settlers from the Swedish. The last expedition, which arrived on the Delaware in March 1656, numbered 105 persons. Of those, 9 were officers and servants, 4 were Swedish women and maidens, 33 were Finnish men, 7 were Finnish women and maidens, 32 were Finnish children of 12 or under. (See Vol. II, p. 634.)

Thus there are 92 Finns out of a total of 105. This figure of 105 takes on extra meaning when it is recalled that in 1654-55 - the year preceding the arrival of the group of 105 persons - the total number of "officers, soldiers, servants, and freemen", which included a number off Finns who were in New Sweden already, was only 240.

In the absence of other evidence, it appears quite safe to say that at least one-third, and probably more than one-third of the population of the New Sweden colony was Finnish. This seems to be borne out by the frequent references in Johnson's work to the Finns in the colony. A few quotations will suffice to illustrate the extent to which Johnson, who in no sense attempts to do anything but tell the story of New Sweden as a whole, mentions the Finns.

In his chapter on the dwellings and customs (ch. 33) of the colonists, the very first sentence refers to the Finns, and throughout the chapter, the Swedes and the Finns are discussed in a way showing the importance of both or emphasizing customs and ways of doing things as being common to both groups. (See vol. I, pp. 345-346.)

In discussing agriculture in New Sweden in the 1650's, Johnson refers to an old method of clearing the forests by burning and says that -

In Sweden and Finland this method became so common during the seventeenth century that ordinances were passed against it by the Government, many Finns being sent to New Sweden for violating these edicts (vol. II, p. 528).

In referring to techniques of fishing prevalent at the time, spearing, eel-traps, etc., are mentioned, and the statement made that -

the Swedes and the Finns came from regions where these methods of fishing were common (vol. II, p. 537).

When Johnson tries to "construct a picture of 'social New Sweden'" he states that some of the essential material for such a picture can be drawn from the account books, memorials, bills, and the like, but such sources, he adds, must be "supplemented by our knowledge of conditions in Sweden and Finland" at the time (vol. I, p. 164).

Finally, speaking of religious and general church festivals in the colony, Johnson remarks:

Many peculiar customs were and are observed in Finland and Sweden on these festive days, especially at Christmas time, and some of these must have been practiced in the colony. If a New England settler had visited the homesteads of the Swedes and the Finns at Christmas, 1654, he would have seen much that was new to him (vol. II, p. 543). (See also vol. II, pp. 663, 665-670.)

IV. Conclusions

Even this brief summary, based upon the standard work in the field whos author has in no way gone out of his way to emphasize the Finnish element in New Sweden, justifies the following conclusions:

1. That the Finnish element in New Sweden was important; it represented one-third and probably more of the total population of the colony.

2. That insofar as the Federal Government of the United States takes cognizance of the tercentenary celebrations in 1938 of the first permanent settlements in the Delaware River Valley, its action should involve not only a recognition of Sweden and the Swedes, but of Finland and the Finns as well.

This resolution as reports is to amend sections 1 and 2 of Public Resolution No. 102 (49 Stat. 486), and in accordance with clause 2a, rule 13, there is inserted in this report sections 1 and 2 of Public Resolution No. 102 (with amendatory language in italics) which is as follows:

Sections 1 and 2, Public Resolution No. 102 (49 Stat. 1486)

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That when, in the opinion of the President of the United States, it shall be appropriate for him to do so, the President be, and he is hereby, authorized and requested to extend to the Government of Sweden, the Government of Finland, and such individuals as the President may determine, an invitation to unite with the Government and people of the United States in a fitting and appropriate observance of the three-hundredth anniversary of the first permanent settlement of Swedish and Finnish colonists in Delaware, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey.

Sec. 2. There is hereby established a commission to be known as the United States Delaware Valley Tercentenary Commission (hereinafter referred to as the "Commission") to be composed of fifteen commissioners, as follows: Five persons to be appointed by the President of the United States, five Members of the Senate to be appointed by the President of the Senate, and five Members of the House of Representatives to be appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives. The Commission, on behalf of the United States, shall cooperate with representatives of the States of Delaware and Pennsylvania in the appropriate observance of such anniversary, and shall extend appropriate courtesies to such representatives of the Government of Sweden, the Government of Finland, and other persons, as may respond to the invitation of the President extended as herein - before provided. The members of the commission shall serve without compensation and shall select a chairman from among their number.

House of Representatives. 75th Congress. 1st Session. Report No. 1391. 1937, 5 p.

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