Premium Books (premieböcker) of Swedish American Newspapers 1890-1915
This display features books and advertisements from three Swedish American weekly newspapers – the two rival Chicago newspapers, Hemlandet and Svenska Amerikanaren and the Minneapolis weekly Svenska Amerikanska Posten.
Major Swedish American weekly newspapers like Hemlandet and Svenska Amerikanaren engaged in what can be referred to as “premium wars” in the 1890s and the early years of the 20th Century.
Subscribers were rewarded with a book in Swedish for a year’s subscription to the newspaper. Sensational and competitive offers were touted usually in fancy advertisements throughout the year as each newspaper tried to win over readers with inventive marketing. Advertisements, some as large as a full page, barked promotions for yearly subscriptions and attempted to convince readers of not only the benefits but also the honor of being a subscriber.
The books were often pirated, having been printed previously by publishers in Sweden or the U.S. and simply reissued with a new title page by the newspapers (copyright laws were not yet defined as now). The hardbound books typically had colorful and highly embellished covers which made them attractive additions to home libraries. Swedish American businesses paid for advertisements in the inside front and back covers of the books, which either helped cover or completely covered the cost of publication.
Some interesting facts and figures
A yearly subscription to Svenska Amerikanaren in 1899 including a premium book cost $2.50. Yearly subscription without the premium book was $2.00.
Svenska Amerikanska Posten cost 3¢ an issue in 1893 and 5¢ an issue in 1896.
Svenska Amerikanska Posten in Minneapolis promised a free Swedish family bible to subscribers who hustled up ten new subscribers. The 1893 offer claims that the bible sold for $15 in bookstores.
Svenska Amerikanska Posten, claims to be largest and least expensive, $1 per year including premium as opposed to other Swedish weeklies which cost up to $2.25 a year. This verbose explanation of subscriber premium offers is probably the most complex of all the weeklies.
Hemlandet offered free premium books and other gifts including portraits – “a beautiful wall ornament in any home” -- of prominent Swedish Americans with a yearly subscription. A portrait of famed newspaperman J.A. Enander was offered as an optional premium in 1906 for a $2.00 subscription. An additional 25¢ paid for express delivery of the portrait!
Featured here are examples from the Swenson Center’s Immigration Collection. The topics of the books range from home reference books on health or language, to short fiction (adventure and humor), to histories of the United States and Sweden and even translations of popular American fiction. The books seemingly aimed to inform Swedish immigrants of their new country and keep connections with the old country.
Books On Display
(Click on images to see larger versions)
The 1899 premium competition between the Chicago newspapers featured works about the the Spanish-American war. Hemlandet published an oversized book of photographs from the war. Svenska Amerikanaren compiled a history and up to date account of the conflict, cleverly combined with beloved works from the old countries: Fänrik Ståls Sägner by Johan Ludvig Runeberg and Fritiofs Saga by Esaias Tegner.
Collections of short fiction were frequent choices for premiums. These included adventure stories, humorous writings and general fiction intended to give immigrants a look at life in Sweden, especially those that left their homeland as children.
Premiums from the Chicago weekly, Hemlandet, for 1912 and 1913 were the multi-volume work Kaleidoscope: valda humoresker och kåserier by Sigurd. This offer encouraged subscribers to subscribe for more than one year
Reference books on health or language were a popular choice for premiums.
In 1902-1903 Hemlandet offered Kunskap för alla – värdefull literatur för svenskar. Första band (Knowledge for everyone – valuable literature for Swedes. Volume one). Volume two was offered as a premium for the following year, urging readers to continue their subscriptions.
Svenska Amerikanska Posten in Minneapolis featured an English-Swedish and Swedish-English Dictionary in 1893 as a premium for a one year subscription of $1.00. Newsstand price per weekly issue was 3 ¢.
The 1901 publication of Panorama öfver Amerika is an example of popular premiums that were histories and picture books of the United States.
Translations of popular fiction and biographies were often chosen as the premium of the year, like this 1902 publication Onkel Toms stuga by Harriet Beecher Stowe (Uncle Tom’s Cabin).
The 1905 Förenta Staternas historia (History of the United States) is another example of popular premiums that were histories and picture books of the United States.