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Independent Order of Svithiod Records

Identifier: SAAGC/023
The records of the Independent Order of Svithiod are organized by lodge, and include meeting minutes, constitution and bylaws, membership and financial records, correspondence, and programs.  Included in this collection are records from the Svithiod Nursing Home and junior lodges.


  • 1880 - 2003


Language of Materials

Swedish and English.

Conditions Governing Access

There are no access restrictions on the materials, and the collection is open to all members of the public. However, the researcher assumes full responsibility for conforming with the laws of libel, privacy, and copyright that may be involved in the use of this collection.


127.68 Linear Feet (199 containers)

Biographical / Historical

On December 3, 1880, a group of eight men met at Bowman's Hall, now 370 W. Chicago Avenue, Chicago, Illinois, and there the cornerstone was laid for the Svithiod of today.  On March 14, 1881, Simon Hallberg was elected chairman of the new organization and a committee was formed to draw up bylaws.  The Independent Order of Svithiod received an official charter from the state of Illinois on September 2, 1881.

"The purposes of the organization are to provide sick benefits to its members, [to levy an assessment on its members upon their death], and to provide educational and social purposes for its members."

In the year 1882, a Svithiod chorus was organized and remained connected to the Svithiod Club until the year 1889 when they joined the United Scandinavian Singers of America.

By the year 1885, the membership numbered 200 and their funds totaled $4,000.  Each member had a death benefit of $500.

The first five expansion lodges were established between the years 1885 and 1891, and by 1893 with the membership up to 700, it was decided to establish a grand lodge.

In September 1898 the first copy of the Journal för Svithiods Orden was published.  In 1901, the Journal began publication on a monthly basis.  The title was changed twice, once in 1912 to Svithiod Journalen and again in 1950 to The Svithiod Journal.

From 1905 to 1913 the Order extended its activities into Missouri and Minnesota, with an increase in membership.  Another important event which took place during this time was the decision to allow the organization of English‑speaking lodges.  Central Lodge No. 42 was the first of these lodges.  By 1911 the order was a full-fledged business concern, with an office at 105 N. Clark Street.  They moved to the City Hall Square Building the following year.

By 1913 there were 46 lodges and 8,250 members.  The order had obligated itself to over $5 million in death benefits to members' families.

In 1916, after several years of heated debates, the order finally decided to allow women to become members.  On May 10, 1916 Agda C. Nordlund of Skandia Lodge in Evanston, Illinois was admitted as the first female member.  In June of that same year the first ladies lodge, Alpha No. 50 was established.  In the following years some existing lodges became mixed lodges.

Following World War I six new lodges were organized, bringing the total to 67.  The membership grew to the 16,000 mark.

It was in 1923, at the Grand Lodge meeting in Galesburg, Illinois that a decision was made to establish and operate an Old Members Home. A property located on the shores of Lake Minnetonka, Minnesota, consisting of 60 acres, was purchased for $35,000.  The building was erected in 1927 with the opening day ceremonies taking place on June 3, 1928.  The purpose of the home was to provide a haven for the older members.  The minimum age of admission to the home was 65 years, but exceptions could be made.  The building was later sold in 1974.

At the convention held in Minneapolis in 1924, the suggestion was made to hold a Svithiod Day Outing each year to benefit the Old Members Home.  The suggestion was accepted, and in 1926 the first Svithiod Day Outing was held in Geneva, Illinois.

In 1930, at the convention held in Chicago, Bernard Johnson was elected to the office of Grand Master.  He held this position until 1943.  He has been called the outstanding Grand Master.  During the year 1933‑34, the Grand Master, with the assistance of Sister Fannie Anderson of Elida Lodge No. 54, started the first Junior Club.  The Grand Master sponsored a proposal that the order write Juvenile Term Insurance which would expire at age 16.  These Junior Clubs grew in popularity and in number.

One of Bernard Johnson's greatest successes was the social event celebrating the 55th anniversary of Svithiod.  It was held in Medinah Temple in Chicago on December 7, 1935, a sell‑out festival, with people waiting in the streets to get in.  The show "One the Wings of Time" portraying the development of the order, was under the direction of Carl Stockenberg.

During the Second World War, the order held "Help Win the War" benefit rallies in 32 cities.  It was climaxed by a huge Chicago festival at the Medinah Temple.  These rallies attracted thousands of people, with the proceeds amounting to $14,000, which made it possible for the order to donate nine ambulances and medical supplies.

During the 1940's the big issue within the order was the "Friendship Amendment".  This issue involved the question of whether or not to allow wives and husbands of members to join lodges even though they were not of Swedish descent.  This amendment was finally approved in Duluth in 1948.

In the early 1950's many concerned members saw the need for the Svithiod Order to establish a not‑for‑profit nursing home for members.  At the 1950 convention in Chicago the plans for the home were drawn up.  The nursing home opened on May 28, 1961 at 8800 Grace Street in Niles, Illinois.  It operated for ten years, until its closing in September of 1971.

At the Grand Lodge convention held in Chicago in July 1970, it was decided to establish a scholarship fund.  The purpose of this scholarship was to assist Svithiod‑connected young people in furthering their education.  The amount of the scholarship was $250 and was awarded on the basis of the applicants' scholastic rating and qualities of character and leadership.


Arranged by lodge and then topic.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The records of the Independent Order of Svithiod were donated to the Swedish American Archives of Greater Chicago by Mrs. Betty Jane Clausen on December 7, 1984.


Additional items of unknown provenance were added May 2013 by Janet Leu. Acc #3-19 was added November 2013 by Anna-Kajsa Anderson.

Processing Information

Steve Jones, May - June, 1985.
Funding to migrate and update this finding aid was provided by the Swedish Council of America through the 2019 grant "Improving and Expanding Access to the Swedish–American Archives of Greater Chicago."

Repository Details

Part of the Swedish-American Archives of Greater Chicago Repository

3225 W Foster Ave
Box 38
Chicago IL 60625 USA