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Civil War Connections at the American Swedish Historical Museum
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Civil War Connections at the American Swedish Historical Museum

Though one might not immediately connect the American Swedish Historical Museum in Philadelphia with the Civil War, the museum is actually home to two important Civil War collections.

The John Ericsson Gallery at ASHM features a striking mural, A Crisis in our National History, John Ericsson Saves the Northern Fleet, which depicts a fictionalized meeting between Swedish American inventor John Ericsson (1803-1889) and a committee formed by Abraham Lincoln to develop a plan for an armored warship. Though the mural likely dramatizes Ericsson’s warship design submission, the Navy did adopt Ericsson’s design for what became the Monitor. The Monitor famously went on to repel the Confederate Merrimac at the Battle of Hampton Roads in 1862, saving the rest of the Union fleet.

The John Ericsson Room at ASHM showcases many of Ericsson’s engineering designs and sketches, as well as objects related to the Monitor and Merrimac. Outside, a pair of large cannons flank the American Swedish Historical Museum. Originally on board the 
wooden, steam-powered USS Osceola and USS Ticonderoga during the Civil War, these cannons were put into storage in the latter half of the nineteenth century before finally arriving in Philadelphia in 1938. This type of cannon, called a Dahlgren gun, was designed by Rear Admiral John A. Dahlgren, the son of a Swedish Consul in Philadelphia, hence why the cannons have found a home at the American Swedish Historical Museum. Dahlgren guns, nicknamed “soda bottles” for their distinctive shape, came as a significant advance in naval cannons that made the weapons both safer and more powerful.

Visit the American Swedish Historical Museum to view these collections and many others. The museum is located at 1900 Pattison Avenue Philadelphia, PA and is open from 10am-4pm Tuesday-Friday and 12-4pm Saturday-Sunday. Veterans and military receive discounted admission