On the Water

Swedish Immigrant’s Trunk

This handmade wooden trunk has a hinged wooden lid, a metal keyhole plate, and rope handles on the sides. The top and front of the trunk are decorated with hand-painted red and white tulips and roses. The initials “ABAD” are painted in white scrollwork above the date “1867” on the face of the trunk. The trunk was found around 1910 in the attic of the donor’s grandparents in Jamestown, New York. An elderly Swedish couple, who had been renting the upstairs, left the trunk behind when they moved out of the house.

Although the Swedes who came to the United States with their belongings in this trunk are not known, they were part of a mass migration out of Sweden that began in the 1860s. A combination of population pressure, limited agricultural land, and political and religious unrest had driven many Swedes to the United States since the 1840s. But disease and famine beginning in the late 1860s forced many more to leave Sweden. Between 1868 and 1914, more than a million Swedes emigrated, mostly to America. After arriving in New York, many went west to farmland in Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. Swedes also settled in urban areas such as Chicago and Minneapolis.

ID Number:
wood, metal
20.0787 x 37.0079 x 23.622 in.; 51 x 94 x 60 cm

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