Swan Johan Turnblad

Swan Johan Turnblad

Tubbamala, Alvesta kommun, Kronobergs län, Sweden
Death 17 May 1933 (aged 72)
Hennepin County, Minnesota, USA
Burial Minneapolis, Hennepin County, Minnesota, USA
Plot Section 14, Lot 48, Grave 3
Memorial ID 66092954 · View Source
Suggest Edits

Swan Turnblad immigrated with his family to the United States in 1868 at the age of eight. His parents made the decision to leave their farm in the famine-ridden area of Småland, Sweden. The family settled in a Swedish community called Vasa in southern Minnesota where they joined relatives who had settled in the area earlier.

Swan Turnblad was not content to continue in the family farming tradition. In 1879 Turnblad left Vasa for Minneapolis where he lived the quintessential rags-to-riches American success story. After he moved to Minneapolis, Turnblad worked at several Swedish language newspapers as a typesetter. His interest in the printing industry eventually led to his success as publisher of the Swedish language newspaper Svenska Amerikanska Posten. Within ten years he was the sole owner. Under his management, circulation of the weekly paper soared to over 40,000, a substantial increase from the 1,400 it initially claimed. This publication was likely the principal source of Turnblad's wealth.

The success of the paper was a result of Turnblad's aggressive management style, as well as the large numbers of Swedish immigrants who supported it. He created a technically advanced newspaper by using the best printing equipment available. He was the first Swedish publisher in America to set his paper by Linotype machine. In 1903 Svenska Amerikanska Posten became the first Swedish language paper to use a duplex rotary color printing press, enabling the creation of color illustrations.

In Minneapolis Swan met and married Christina Nilsson. She, like Turnblad, had come to America from Sweden with her family. Her family settled in Worthington, Minnesota in 1876 when Christina was 15. Her first job in America paid no wages, but gave her work experience and English language training. Later she worked as a waitress for one year. In 1882 Christina moved to Minneapolis where she met the young newspaper man at a Good Templar meeting. They were married in 1883 and their only child, Lillian Zenobia, was born a year later.

In the early 1900s the Turnblads started to plan the building of their palatial estate. Their many trips to Europe certainly influenced their decision on the stately chateau style of the mansion and the ornate designs of the interior. The property on Park Avenue was purchased in 1903 and plans were drawn up by the Minneapolis architectural firm of Christopher A. Boehme and Victor Cordella. The structure took nearly five years to build. The Turnblads did not take out a mortgage on this property during construction. Bills were paid as they came due and there are no records of construction costs. When the museum was founded in 1929 the Minneapolis Tribune reported, "the cost is believed to have been close to $1,000,000 although this is a matter the builder does not discuss."

The transition from private residence to museum happened in 1929 when the family donated the house and the newspaper to establish the American Institute for Swedish Arts, Literature and Science (later changed to the American Swedish Institute). Turnblad stated that he had long planned for the home to be a Swedish-American institute. He was quoted as saying, "many persons may have wondered what a small family like ours, a family which had not great social ambitions, wanted with so big a house. Perhaps they can guess now." The mansion is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Family Members


Sponsored by Ancestry


Plan a visit to Lakewood Cemetery?



  • Created by: DaveVangsness
  • Added: 24 Feb 2011
  • Find A Grave Memorial 66092954
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Swan Johan Turnblad (7 Oct 1860–17 May 1933), Find A Grave Memorial no. 66092954, citing Lakewood Cemetery, Minneapolis, Hennepin County, Minnesota, USA ; Maintained by DaveVangsness (contributor 16959198) .