Dressed in a Present from the Past: The Transfers and Transformations of a Swedish Bridal Crown in the United States


  • Lizette Grad én Department of Design, Craft and Textile Art at Konstfack, Sweden




Gift-giving, heritage gift, performance, the dressed body, Swedish-America


Ever since the emigration from the Nordic countries the Old world and the New world have maintained an exchange of ideas, customs, and material culture. This cultural heritage consists of more than remnants of the past. Drawing on theories of material culture and performance this article highlights the role of gifts in materializing relationships between individuals, families and organizations in the wake of migration. First, I build on a suggested coinage of the term heritage gifts as a way of materializing relationships. Thereafter, I map out the numerous roles which a Swedish bridal crown play in the United States: as museum object, object of display and loaned to families for wedding ceremonies in America. The transfers and transformations of the bridal crown enhances a drama of a migration heritage. This dynamic drama brings together kin in Sweden and America and maps specific locations into a flexible space via the trajectory of crown-clad female bodies.


Fieldwork carried out at the American Swedish Instiute, Minneapolis and the Swedish American Center in Karlstad. A pilot study was made in June-August 2006, with subsequent fieldwork in February and June in 2009. This fieldwork contains observation, participant observation, and interviews. Archival studies have been used to add historical depth to the study.

Aronsson, Peter (1995): Regionernas roll i Sveriges historia, Östersund: Expertgruppen för forskning of regional utveckling: Stockholm: Fritzes.

Appadurai, Arjun (ed.) (1986): The Social Life of Things: Commodities in Cultural Perspective, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Baumgarten, Linda (2002): What Clothes Reveal: The Language of Clothing in Colonial and Federal America. The Colonial Williamsburg Collection, Williamsburg, VA: The Williamsburg Foundation.

Becker, Karin (2000): ”The Changing Picture of/on the Newspaper Page”, Karin Becker, Jan Ekecrantz, Tom Olsson (eds): Picturing Politics, Stockholm: Stockholm University, 132–145.

Bendix, Regina (1997): In Search of Authenticity: the Formation of Folklore Studies, Madison: Univ. of Wisconsin Press.

Comaroff, John L. & Jean Comaroff (2009): Ethnicity, Inc., Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Damsholt, Tine & Dorthe Simonsen  (2009): ”Materialiseringar: Processer, relationer och performativitet”, In: Damsholt, Tine, Simonsen, Dorthe Gert & Mordhorst, Camilla (ed.): Materialiseringar: Nya perspektiver på materialietet og kulturanalyse, Aarhus: Aarhus universitetsforlag, 9–38.

Derrida, Jacques (1992): Given Time, translated by Peggy Kamuf. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Easterson, Mary (1992): Potlatch: The Southern Tutchone Way, Kluane First Nations.

Eicher, Joanne (1995): Dress and Ethnicity. Change Across Space and Time, Oxford: Berg.

Eicher, Joanne & Lisa Ling (2006): Mother, Daughter, Sister, Bride: Rituals of womanhood, Washington D.C. National Geographic Society.

Goffman, Erving (1959/1990): The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, London: Penguin.

Gradén, Lizette (2010): ”Performing a Present from the Past”, Etnologia Europaea, 40:2.

Gradén, Lizette & Hanne Pico Larsen (2009): “Nordic Spaces in North America: Heritage Preservation in Real and Imagined Nordic Places”, Arv, Nordic Yearbook of Folklore Uppsala: Kungl. Gustav Adolfs Akademien, 1–7.

Gradén, Lizette (2003): On Parade: Making Heritage in Lindsborg, Kansas, Stockholm: Stockholms Universitet (diss.).

Häggström, Anders (2000): Levda rum och beskrivna platser: Former för landskapsidentitet, Stockholm: Carlsson.

Kirshenblatt-Gimblett Barbara (1998): Destination Culture: Museums, Tourism and Heritage, San Franscisco: University of California Press.

Kjellman, Gunilla (1979): Bröllopsgåvan: En etnologisk studie av gåvoekonomi, Lund: Universitet (diss.).

Kjerström-Sjölin, Eva (1993): ”Minnet av bröllopet: Om bröllopsfotografiet förr och nu”, Kulturen, 1993, 145–167.

Kopytoff, Igor (1986): “The Biography of Things”, The Social Life of Things: Commodities in Cultural Perspective, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Knuts, Eva (2006): Något gammalt, något nytt: Skapandet av bröllopsföreställningar, Göteborg: Göteborgs universitet (diss.).

Küchler, Susanne & Miller, Daniel (ed.) (2005): Clothing as material culture, Oxford: Berg

Pico Larsen, Hanne (2009): “Danish Maids and Visual Matters: Celebrating Heritage in Solvang, California”, Arv, 2009(65), 93–109.

Latour, Bruno (2005): Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory, Oxford: University Press.

Lintelman, Joy K. (2005): “Between the Mundane and the Memorable: The Letters of Single and Married Swedish Immigrant Women”, The Swedish-American historical quarterly, 2005(56):2/3, 158–172.

Mauss, Marcel (1959/1990): The Gift. Forms and Function of Exchange in Archaic Societies, New York: The Norton Library.

Medelius, Hans, Bengt Nyström & Elisabet Stavenow-Hidemark (eds) (1998): Nordiska museet under 125 år, Stockholm: Nordiska museet.

Miller, Daniel 2001: ”Alienable Gifts and Inalienable Commodities”, Fred R. Myers & Annie E. Coombes (eds): The Empire of Things: Regimes of Value and Material Culture, Santa Fe: School of American Research Press, 91–115

Miller, Daniel (2005): Materiality, London: Routledge

Miller, Daniel (2009): The Comfort of Things, London: Polity Press.

Moberg, Vilhelm (1984/1959): Nybyggarna: Sista brevet till Sverige, Stockholm: Bonnier

Måwe, Carl-Erik (1971): Värmlänningar i Nordamerika: Sociologiska studier i en anpassningsprocess: med särskild hänsyn till emigrationen från Östmark, Uppsala: Uppsala universitet.

Noss, Aagot (1991): Lad og krone: frå jente til brur, Oslo: Oslo universitetsforlag.

Nylén, Anna-Maja (1971): ”Från trolovning till vigsel”, Hertha, 1971:3, 9–13, 21.

Nylén, Anna-Maja (1962): Varför klär vi oss: Kring dräktens roll förr och nu, Västerås: ICA-förlaget Olwig, Kenneth R. & Jones, Michael (eds) (2008): Nordic Landscapes: Region and Belonging on the Northern Edge of Europe, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Pico Larsen, Hanne (2009): “Danish Maids and Visual Matters: Celebrating Heritage in Solvang, California”, Arv, 2009(65), 93–109.

Resare, Ann (1988): ”Och bruden bar-”, Ingrid Bergman (ed.): Kläder, Stockholm: Nordiska museet, 77-95, 239.

Schechner, Richard (1985): Between Theatre and Anthropology, Philadelphia: University of Philadelphia Press.

Schechner, Richard (2002): “Fundamentals of Performance Studies”, Nathan Stucky & Cynthia Wimmer (eds): Teaching Performance Studies, Carbondale and Edmondsville: Southern Illinois Press, ix–xii.

Schechner, Richard (2006): Performance Studies. An Introduction, Second edition. New York and London: Routledge.

Shukla, Pravina. (2008): The Grace of Four Moons: Dress, Adornment, and the Art of the Body in Modern India, Bloomington: Indiana University Press

Stewart, Susan (1984/1993): On Longing: Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection, Durham: Duke University Press.

Svanberg, Fredrik. (2009): Museer och samlande, Stockholm: Statens historiska museum. ”Svensk-amerikan tillbakavisar kritiken mot värmlandsgåvan”, Nya Wermlandstidningen, 8 April 1952.

The Poetic Edda (1928/1962): translated by Lee. M Hollander with an introduction and explanatory notes. second edition revised. Austin: University of Texas Press.

”Wedding has Swedish Overtones” (1961): Minneapolis Sunday Tribune, July 30, 1961.

Westling, Axel (1952): ”Kritiken mot Värmlandsgåvan föremål för nya bemötanden”, Nya Wermlandstidningen, 10 april 1952.

Widén Albin (1952): “Expert kritisk mot Värmlandsgåvan, spinnrock minner om Fattig-Sverige”, Dagens Nyheter, 6 April 1952.

Winge, Theresa & Joanne Eicher (2003): “The Groom Wore a Kilt: Carnivalesque and Theme Weddings”, Helen Bradley Foster & Donald Clay Johnson (eds): Wedding Dress Across      Cultures, Oxford: Berg.

Interviews and Recorded Discussions

Marie Ylinen, July 2006, June 2009

Marcia Linnér Swanson, July 2006

Nils Hasselmo, August 2006

Curt Pederson, July 2006, June 2009

Archival Material

Gåvoboken, Värmlandsgåvan. The American Swedish Institute archives.

Värmlandsgåvan, The ASI archives.

Värmlandsgåvan, arkivet. Sverige Amerika centret (tidigare emigrantregistret), Karlstad.




How to Cite

Grad én, L. (2010) “Dressed in a Present from the Past: The Transfers and Transformations of a Swedish Bridal Crown in the United States”, Culture Unbound, 2(5), pp. 695–717. doi: 10.3384/cu.2000.1525.10238695.



Theme: Uses of the Past; Nordic Historical Cultures in a Comparative Perspective