The King and Queen Pay a Visit

Vol. I No. 2 - WINTER 1988

Interview by: Mary Cramer, BVM

April 19, 1988 was a red-letter day in Andersonville. On that day King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia of Sweden came to visit. "Although it was not their first visit to this neighborhood, they came to dedicate the newly-located Swedish American Museum at 5211 N. Clark Street," said Kerstin Lane, Director of the Museum.

"When it was learned that the King and Queen would be visiting America on the 350th anniversary of the arrival of the first Swedes to land on these shores, plans began to invite them to Andersonville," said Lane.

"How do you go about inviting a king and queen?" Lane was asked.

"First we contacted the Swedish Consul General in Chicago, Hakan Wilkens," replied Lane, "who in turn consulted the Swedish Ambassador, Arne Thoren, in Washington. It went up the line from there with the King making the final decision."

The plane carrying the royal couple touched down at Midway Airport at 8:15 a.m. They were greeted by the Swedish Ambassador and the Consul General, who escorted them to City Hall to meet [Acting] Mayor Eugene Sawyer. Arriving in Andersonville at two o’clock, their first stop was at the museum.

"This visit was intended to be an intimate one but an entourage of 50 reporters and dignitaries changed that," said Lane. "However, both the King and Queen took time to admire the numerous exhibits," she said.

Leaving the museum, the royal couple marched north on Clark Street to a reviewing stand where an enthusiastic crowd of 5,000 persons waving small blue and yellow flags cheered their arrival. A parade of floats, marching bands and groups of dancers, some of whom had come from Sweden especially for the occasion, passed by the stand.

People of many nationalities besides Swedish were lined up on the sidewalks, which merchants had meticulously scrubbed. At the end of the day, the King and Queen were entertained at dinner at the Field Museum.

"When everything was over," said Lane, "I decided to take off for a week and went back to Sweden to see my mother. Per clippings she had saved from the Swedish press, reporters had written that of the ten American cities visited, the events at Andersonville were by far the best, both for numbers of people and for the entertainment provided. "Here," said Lane, "people turned out by the thousands. Nowhere else were crowds so large."

"Of course," continued Lane, "nothing could have been done without the wonderful support of many, many people. Personally, it was wonderful to be part of something so extraordinary just once. It was exciting to have TV people wanting to interview you. Every human being should have the experience of feeling important just once! It was a great boost for all of us."

When asked about the Swedish American Museum, Lane explained that it was founded in 1976 by Kort Mathiasson in a little storefront at 5248 N. Clark. It remained there until 1988, when it was obvious that it could no longer accommodate the classes and other scheduled activities.

"We want our new headquarters to be seen not just as a museum but as a gathering place for all of Andersonville," she continued. "We have classes in the Swedish language, geneology, basket making and Swedish Christmas craft. We would like to offer a class in making hand-dipped candles, too."

In addition, the museum has a traveling exhibit come in each month. "Snow White and the Seven Dwarves - Swedish Fairytales to American Fantasy, Illustrations by Gustav Tenggren, 1950-1970" will be featured November 18 through December 27. Next year, they plan to exhibit the work of contemporary Swedish artists.

"We function as a resource on things Swedish," concluded Lane, "and a royal welcome is extended to all visitors."