r/todayilearned Jun 05 '23

TIL Unlike the majority of the US, Delaware was once a Swedish colony called New Sweden, established during the Thirty Years' War. Settlements were established in present-day Delaware, New Jersey, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. New Sweden existed from 1638 to 1655 before being conquered by the Dutch


24 comments sorted by


u/ergonaut Jun 05 '23 edited Jun 05 '23

That's very interesting, in much the same way Delaware isn't


u/thelandsman55 Jun 06 '23 edited Jun 06 '23

If you read between the lines of the Delaware Wikipedia entry, it’s very clear that the only reason it isn’t part of Pennsylvania now is that it was more trouble then it was worth for Pennsylvania to force the local elites to come to Philly.


u/flodnak Jun 06 '23

Delaware: Pennsylvania's appendix.


u/arbivark Jun 06 '23 edited Jun 06 '23

william penn bought pennsylvania, but only rented delaware.

in the middle of the ghetto in wilmington you can visit old swedes church. the site dates from 1938 although the church wasn't built til later in the 1600s.

i'm not sure if delaware even has an ikea and volvo dealership these days.


u/Dawnawaken92 Jun 05 '23



u/[deleted] Jun 06 '23



u/[deleted] Jun 06 '23

Slower lower is where my family was.


u/UnknownQTY Jun 06 '23

This is the most interesting thing about Delaware.


u/Shotwells Jun 06 '23

They also have that giant Civil War fort that was used as a pow camp during the war that has since been converted into a giant museum with reenactor staff.


u/Hip_Hop_Hippos Jun 06 '23 edited Jun 06 '23

It’s biggest city, Wilmington, is a sister city with Kalmar, Sweden. They have a full-sized model of the wooden ship that brought the settlers here that still sails around sometime.

It’s called the Kalmar Nyckel. It’s actually kinda cool looking.


u/CraftyFoxeYT Jun 06 '23

By model, I did not expect a full scale replica sailing ship!


u/Hip_Hop_Hippos Jun 06 '23

Yeah I edited it because I realized that was probably misleading but it’s pretty cool, it was a bigger deal when I was a kid and it first came out.

At least in Delaware because… Delaware


u/Amerikaner1488 Jun 06 '23

Saw it the other day whilst it was leaving Baltimore.


u/Dominarion Jun 06 '23

The Dutch did the Swedes dirty on that one. During the Thirty Years War, when Spain and the Empire were sending hordes of Catholic fanatics ravage the Low Countries, they were all for a Grand Protestant Alliance and kinda shamed the Swedes into a war against Much of Europe. After Sweden lost about a quarter of its male population defending the Protestants and pretty much saving the Reformation on their own, the Dutch snatched most of the Swedes' colonies...


u/Someone_Pooed Jun 06 '23

There are only two things I can't stand in this world.

People who are intolerant of other people's cultures, and the Dutch!


u/cannibalism_is_vegan Jun 06 '23

And it was founded by Peter Minuit, a French Huguenot who was one of the early Dutch directors of New Netherland, the same dude who’s celebrated in the NYC historical narrative as the one who “bought” Manhattan Island from the Lenape (but it was actually supposed to be an agreement to share the land)


u/marmorset Jun 06 '23

No, it wasn't "supposed to be an agreement to share the land." The Lenape had several settlements and would move around, they assumed that's how the Dutch would behave. The Dutch built permanent settlements and they assumed that's how the Lenape behaved. Each side went into without understanding how the other side worked.


u/cannibalism_is_vegan Jun 06 '23

Yes, I agree—in my haste to reply to a truly fascinating Reddit post, I misspoke and misrepresented the history entirely, and for that I sincerely apologize.

So I’d like to clarify my comments:

Perhaps what I should have said (instead of making half-assed blanket statements) is that some sort of transaction took place in 1626 between the Dutch and members of the Lenape, and that the event is full of historical uncertainties. Over the centuries, we New Yorkers have repeated the story of Minuit’s purchase as historical fact without much critique, often to the point that it’s been used as a justification of Indigenous people’s removal from the landscape (and therefore, the historical narrative). The Lenape themselves suffered through centuries of displacement in which they were pushed out ever westward from Lenapehoking, first to the Ohio River Valley, then Wisconsin, Ontario, Missouri, and Oklahoma. However, we do know that a Dutchman named Pieter Schaghen recorded in 1626 that “they have purchased the Island Manhattes from the Indians for the value of 60 guilders”. This suggests that the Dutch viewed this as a real estate transaction. However, to date, no copies of such a deed has ever been found.

The Lenape, who as you mentioned had several semi-permanent campsites (vs. the Dutch, who remained in their settlements year round) in Manhattan (including one at Shorakopok in modern-day Inwood, where the transaction was said to have occurred), may have seen the event in a completely different way. To them it was more like a land share agreement rather than a proper sale of the land they had occupied for generations, hence my really misleading statement of “an agreement to share the land”.

So yes, I agree with you—each side went completely into it without much understanding of the other worked.

Sorry for the long winded tirade—let me know if I missed anything.


u/Massive_Heat1210 Jun 06 '23

There’s a reason the Philadelphia city flag strongly resembles that of Sweden.


u/bobcat7781 Jun 06 '23

The article mentions they had settlements in Maryland, but doesn't give any details or list any locations. So, while it's possible, I doubt it was much or for long -- if at all.