Skip to main content

Swedish royal visits to Augustana and Illinois

Because of their deep connections to Sweden and Swedish immigrants, Augustana College and the Quad Cities have enjoyed numerous visits by members of the Swedish royal family during the last 100 years.

Visits by royal family members include Crown Prince Gustaf Adolf's brief visit to the campus in 1927; Prince Bertil in 1948; King Carl XVI Gustaf in April of 1976 followed by his sister Princess Desiree and her husband Count Niclas Silvershiold in May of 1976; a 1988 visit by Queen Silvia; and King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia in 1996.

Prince Bertil, June 21, 1948

Prince Bertil
Prince Bertil

Prince Bertil visited the Tri-city area (Moline, Rock Island, and Davenport) in conjunction with the Swedish Pioneer Centennial Celebration in 1948. The celebration marked the 100th anniversary of Swedish immigrants settling in the Midwest. Augustana College President Conrad Bergendoff served as the national president for the event and spoke at the opening ceremony of the Prince's one-month tour of the Midwest in Chicago on June 5.

After several stops, the Swedish prince and his delegation of approximately 20 members arrived in Moline on June 20. A service was held at the Wharton Field House in Moline to welcome the Swedish guests and to honor contributions Swedish immigrants had made to the local area. Bergendoff and Professor C.G. Carlfeldt welcomed the prince and the delegation at an official reception held later that day at the LeClaire Hotel in Moline.

The prince's second day in the Quad Cities area began with a breakfast in Galesburg followed by a brief tour of Bishop Hill, Galva, and Andover, where the prince dedicated a historical marker in honor of the Swedish pioneers who settled there. The party arrived at Augustana College in Rock Island in time for a lunch gathering.

After a brief visit at Augustana, Prince Bertil and his entourage were escorted to view a historical exhibit and have tea at "Seven Acres" (the former home of George Stephens, president of Moline Plow & Co.) in Moline. The visit culminated with a public program at the Wharton Field House where Prince Bertil and several of the Swedish delegates spoke.

King Carl XVI Gustaf, April 20, 1976

King Carl Gustaf XVI examines a tractor at the Nelson farm in 1976. (Augustana College Special Collections)
King Carl XVI Gustaf examines a tractor at the Nelson farm in 1976. (Augustana College Special Collections)

As part of a 26-day tour of the United States, King Carl XVI Gustaf visited Augustana College on April 20, 1976. The welcome ceremony held in the Carver Center attracted an estimated 5,000 people, the second largest crowd of the king's American tour. President Thomas Tredway gave the welcome speech and President Emeritus Conrad Bergendoff followed with a brief address on the Swedish heritage of Augustana College and the Quad Cities. The Augustana Choir concluded the program with song. The Augustana College Band performed processional and recessional pieces.

After the ceremony the king and his official party were escorted to the Denkmann Memorial Library to meet the local planning committee and to view selected library materials related to the college's long Swedish connection. A visit to the College Center to meet with students and listen to the jazz band concluded the visit at Augustana.

The king, his party, and a select group of journalists left Founders circle at 12:20 p.m. for Wayne '49 and Forbes Nelsons' farm in Mercer County. At the Nelsons' home, the king enjoyed a traditional American lunch consisting of hamburgers, potato salad, and corn on the cob. Before departing for Bishop Hill and the Jenny Lind Chapel in Andover, the king was treated to a ride in Nelson's new John Deere dual rear wheel tractor and a tour of the farm. The day in Western Illinois ended with a private dinner party at the John Deere Administrative Center in Moline, Illinois.

Queen Silvia, April 20, 1988

Angela ('02) and Katy ('05) Gano present Queen Silvia with flowers on 7th Avenue in 1988.
Angela ('02) and Katy ('05) Gano present Queen Silvia with flowers on 7th Avenue in 1988.

As part of the extensive New Sweden '88 year-long celebration, which celebrated the 350th anniversary of the founding of the New Sweden settlement on the Delaware River, Queen Silvia visited Augustana College on April 20, 1988. The queen was welcomed by Augustana College and the local community in Centennial Hall at 10 a.m. After a prelude by the Augustana College Band and the singing of both national anthems, President Thomas Tredway officially welcomed the queen to Augustana.

In her remarks, the Queen noted the close ties between Augustana College and the Swedish royal family, which dates back to the 1860s when King Carl XV donated 5,000 books to start the Augustana College Library. During the ceremony, President Emeritus Conrad Bergendoff presented the queen with books pertaining to the college's history and its Swedish roots, and the chair of the Augustana Board of Directors, Martin Carver, announced the Wallenberg gift, which would be used to remodel parts of Denkmann Hall to include new facilities for the Swenson Swedish Immigration Research Center. The Augustana Choir and the Augustana Concert Band ended the program.

After the program in Centennial Hall, the queen and her entourage proceeded to the Swenson Center in Denkmann Memorial Library to view the largest collection of materials relating to Swedish immigration to the United States. During the queen's brief walk across 7th Avenue, 7-year old Angela ('02) and her 5-year old sister Katy ('05) Gano had the opportunity to give the queen a bouquet of flowers and shake her hand. Local newspapers marveled at the queen's charm and how she greeted these two young Rock Island girls.

After a luncheon, the queen left the campus for Atlanta to join the king and to continue the tour of the United States. Augustana College and its own New Sweden'88 committee sponsored a host of other events including public lectures, exhibits, and a concert by the Royal Swedish Army Band. The year-long celebration ended with an exhibit on the Swedish sculptor Carl Milles in Centennial Hall.

King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia, September 13, 1996

King and Queen wave to the crowd in 1996.
King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia wave to the crowd in 1996.

The 1996 visit marked the first joint appearance of King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia at Augustana College. After a welcome at the Quad City airport by Rock Island Mayor Mark Schweibert ‘72, their majesties were transported to campus to tour the newly constructed library and meet with 100-year-old President Emeritus, Conrad Bergendoff. At the library, the king and queen also had the opportunity to view an exhibit on Swedish children's literature and to meet Nils Holgersson, the son of the real Nils Holgersson on whom Selma Lagerlöf based her main character on in her classic work The Wonderful Adventures of Nils.

A public reception near the Slough followed the library visit. President Thomas Tredway welcomed their majesties while Scandinavian professor Larry Scott spoke of the historic academic ties between Sweden and Augustana College and presented their majesties with a collection of books on Swedish immigration to North America. The president and vice president of the Student Government Association presented the king and queen with Augustana sweatshirts for the entire royal family. Lawrence Milas, president of the Olin Foundation, concluded the ceremony by officially announcing a $7.5 million gift to construct the Olin Educational Technology Center. The Augustana Jazz Ensemble and the Augustana Choir entertained with music and song.

After the ceremony, king and queen were escorted across the campus to see Wallenberg Hall and to visit the Swenson Swedish Immigration Research Center, both in Denkmann Hall. At the Swenson Center, they met Dr. Larry Scott, the staff, and the co-founder, Mrs. Lyal Swenson. Dr. Scott presented the history of the Swenson Center and its collections.

A private dinner cruise on the Moline river boat Queen of Hearts was the final element of the visit to Augustana College. While the boat was cruising slowly down river with the queen and king standing outside on the second level foredeck, a 21-gun salute was fired in their honor from Arsenal Island. After an excellent meal and wine supplied by Gus and Phyllis Anderson, members of the Augustana class of 1952, professor of geography Norman Moline '64 concluded the event with a lecture on the historic and economic development of the Mississippi River. Moline vividly remembers the occasion as their majesties were both present in the pilot's cabin while he was lecturing. He notes that their "enthusiasm and questions" after the lecture were impressive and that he will always remember the opportunity to deliver the address for this special event.

Augustana College has been fortunate to have had so many visits from the Swedish royal family in recognition of its Swedish roots.

— Christina Johansson 
Head of Library and Archival Services
Swenson Swedish Immigration Research Center

King Carl XVI Gustaf and President Thomas Tredway

King Carl XVI Gustaf shakes hands with President Thomas Tredway during a visit to Augustana College on April 20, 1976.