3¢ Landing of Swedes and Finns
Issue Date: June 27, 1938
City: Wilmington, DE
Printed by: Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Printing Method: Flat-Plate
Color: Red violet
U.S. #836 commemorates the 300th anniversary of the arrival of Swedish and Finnish settlers in 1638 that established Delaware’s first permanent settlement. The design selected by President Franklin Roosevelt was based on Stanley M. Arthur’s painting of the arrival of those first settlers at present-day Wilmington. When the design was first shown to the President, he pointed out that the stamp should honor the Finnish settlers as well (as the original design simply mentioned the Swedish.
Delaware’s First Permanent Settlement
In 1638, a group of Swedish pioneers established Delaware’s first permanent settlement, Fort Christina (present-day Wilmington), in the New Sweden colony. Peter Minuit, governor of New Netherland (New York), led them there. The New Sweden Company and the Dutch sponsored their settlement. However, the Dutch eventually halted their support. Despite the loss of support, the Swedes were used to cold winters and living on heavily forested lands, and continued to thrive. The colony was home to about 1,000 people, including several Finnish pioneers who had traveled and landed with the Swedish.
In 1638, Swedish settlers landed in present-day Delaware. They founded the colony of New Sweden at what is now Wilmington. New Sweden became the first permanent settlement in the region.
FDR – The Stamp-Collecting President
President Franklin Roosevelt was instrumental in the design and issuance of U.S. #836. Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s mother introduced the future President to stamp collecting at a young age. Throughout his life, he turned to his collection to relax and unwind.
Roosevelt was elected President four times, serving in the nation’s highest office longer than any other chief executive – 12 years. During those 12 years, Roosevelt promoted the importance of stamps by personally approving each of more than 200 stamp designs. This included suggesting topics, rejecting others, and even designing some of the stamps himself. He used U.S. postage stamps to educate Americans about their heritage, to buoy war-weary spirits during World War II, and to send a message of peace and hope as Europe faced the overwhelming task of rebuilding.
Founding Of New Sweden
On March 29, 1638, the New Sweden Colony was established, encompassing parts of present-day Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.
In the 1600s, Sweden was a significant world power, with possessions including Finland, parts of Poland, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Germany, and the Soviet Union. After hearing of the success the British and Dutch had in North America, Sweden sought to expand its territorial holdings.
In 1637, a group of Swedish, Dutch, and German stockholders created the New Sweden Company to trade fur and tobacco. Later that year, Peter Minuit sailed the company’s first ship to North America. In March 1638, they reached the Minquas Kill (present-day Christina River) near today’s Wilmington. After coming ashore, Minuit met with the Lenape tribe and negotiated to buy land on the west riverbank of the Delaware River south of today’s Wilmington up to the Schuylkill River (south of present-day Philadelphia).
The purchase was completed on March 29, 1638, and Minuit declared the area the colony of New Sweden. Minuit ordered the construction of Fort Christina (named for the princess and future queen), the first permanent white settlement, at the present-day site of Wilmington. The colony quickly expanded northward as new colonists arrived from Sweden and Finland.
However, the Dutch believed New Sweden fell within their territory, and in 1651, the governor of the Dutch colony of New Netherland, Peter Stuyvesant, established Fort Casimir at the site of present-day New Castle. The Swedes captured Fort Casimir in 1654, but the following year the Dutch took control of New Sweden. Most of the Swedish settlers remained, and lived in peace under Dutch rule.
In 1938, the US, Sweden, and Finland each issued stamps honoring the New Sweden colony. The US issued its red-violet “Landing of the Swedes and Finns” stamp, while Finland issued one stamp and Sweden issued a set of seven stamps with five different designs. To mark the 300th anniversary, Swedish crown prince Gustav Adolf visited the United States and unveiled a monument at Wilmington with President Franklin Roosevelt.
Fifty years later, the three nations would each honor this event once again on their stamps, but this time, as part of a joint-issue. It was the third joint-issue between the US and Sweden and the first between the US and Finland. It was, however, the first time the US created a joint-issue with two countries at once.
The stamps were issued on March 29, 1988, in cities in all three countries. In the US, the ceremonies were held at Wilmington’s Grand Opera House. The Sweden ceremony was held in Vaxjo and the Finland ceremony in Helsinki.
Another interesting aspect of the US stamp is that it became obsolete faster than any previous US stamp. The 44¢ stamp covered the international airmail rate for just five days before the rate was raised to 45¢. Because of the massive planning that went into the three-nation joint-issue, they didn’t have time to change the stamp’s denomination and couldn’t delay its issue. The stamp was removed from sale just seven months after its issue, making it one of the shortest sale periods up to that time.