The relationship between Sweden and the US dates back nearly four hundred years.
In 1638, two Swedish vessels sailed to what would become Delaware and established the colony of New Sweden. At that time, Sweden encompassed Finland and Estonia as well as parts of modern Russia, Poland, Germany, and Latvia.
Following the Revolutionary War, in 1783 Sweden recognized the US as an independent nation. Sweden was “the first power in Europe which had voluntarily and without solicitation offered its friendship to the United States.” In 1818, Jonathan Russell presented his credentials as American minister plenipotentiary to Sweden, and the diplomatic relations between the two countries have remained strong ever since.
Sweden was among the first countries to recognize the US as an independent nation.
From the mid-19th century to the early 20th century, poverty made 1.3 million Swedes emigrate to North America—nearly one-third of the Swedish population at the time. Many of these immigrants settled in the Midwest, where Swedish traditions still flourish. By the early 1900s, Chicago had the second-largest Swedish population in the world—second only to the Swedish capital, Stockholm. Today, Swedish Americans live across the US, with the largest numbers in Minnesota.
3.8 million Americans are of Swedish descent. Approximately 150 000 Swedish citizens live in the United States.
Swedish immigrants John Nordström and Carl Wallin establishes Nordstrom, at first a shoe store, in Seattle.
Charles R. Walgreen Sr., the son of a Swedish immigrant, opens the first Walgreens store on Chicago’s South Side.
Ericsson’s first sales office opens in the US. Nearly 120 years later, in 2020 Ericsson opens its first smart factory in Texas, which produces 5G base stations to help build the 5G network in the US.
Swedish native Ruben Rausing wins a scholarship to study at Columbia University in New York, where he experiences self-service grocery stores for the first time. After returning to Sweden, Rausing develops a plastic-coated carton for food storage, the foundation of what would become today’s multinational company Tetra Pak.
Swedish-American businessman Curt L. Carlson starts the Gold Bond Stamp Company, pioneering loyalty programs in the retail sector. Carlson would later move into the hospitality industry and found Radisson Hotel Group and Carlson Wagonlit Travel.
The Swedish-made Hasselblad camera is the first camera to be used on the moon by NASA astronauts. The iconic first pictures, when the Apollo 11 mission successfully lands the Eagle on the moon in 1969, would be taken with a silver Hasselblad Data camera. Twelve Hasselblad cameras are left behind on the moon.
IKEA opens its first US store in Philadelphia. Thirty-five years later, IKEA would have 50 stores in the US. In 2019, IKEA would open its first-ever US “city center” location in New York City—the IKEA Planning Studio.
H&M opens its first US store, on Fifth Avenue in New York. Twenty years later, H&M would have almost 600 stores throughout the US.
Spotify is founded by Swedish nationals Daniel Ek and Martin Lorentzon. It would launch in the US five years later, and become the world’s largest music-streaming platform by number of subscribers.
The Swedish company Fjällräven launches in the US and quickly becomes one of the fastest-growing brand names in outdoor and lifestyle. The iconic backpack “Kånken” can be seen on many American teenagers.
Skype opens its first American office in Palo Alto after its acquisition by Microsoft in 2011.
During the coronavirus pandemic, the medical technology company Getinge provides life-saving ventilators and expert solutions to American hospitals and life-science institutions.