In 1637, Swedish, Dutch and German stockholders formed the New Sweden Company to trade for furs and tobacco in North America. Under the command of Peter Minuit, the company's first expedition sailed from Sweden late in 1637 in two ships, Kalmar Nyckel and Fogel Grip. Peter Minuit had been the governor of the Dutch colony, New Netherland, on Manhattan Island, from 1626 to 1631. The ships reached Delaware Bay in March 1638, and the settlers began to build a fort at the site of present-day Wilmington, Delaware. They named it Fort Christina, in honor of Sweden's 12-year-old queen. It was the first permanent European settlement in the Delaware Valley. During the next 17 years, 12 more Swedish expeditions arrived in New Sweden. A total of 11 vessels and about 600 Swedes and Finns reached their destination. The colony consisted of farms and small settlements along both banks of the Delaware River into present-day Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Maryland. New Sweden rose to its greatest heights during the governorship of Johan Printz (1643–1653). He extended settlement northward from Fort Christina along both sides of the Delaware River and improved the colony’s military and commercial prospects by building Fort Elfsborg, near present-day Salem on the New Jersey side of the river, to seal the Delaware against English and Dutch ships. Swedish and Finnish colonists lived peacefully with their Dutch and Lenni Lenape neighbors. In 1654, Printz was succeeded by the colony's last governor, Johan Rising, at a time when the Dutch capitol of New Amsterdam was ruled by Peter Stuyvesant. Soon after arriving in New Sweden, Rising attempted to remove the Dutch from the colony by seizing Fort Casimir (present-day New Castle, Delaware), below Fort Christina on the western shore of the river. With no gunpowder, Fort Casimir surrendered without a shot and was re-named Fort Trinity. Governor Stuyvesant had his revenge the following summer, when seven armed Dutch ships and 317 soldiers appeared on the Delaware River. The outnumbered Swedes surrendered Fort Trinity, and Governor Rising surrendered Fort Christina two weeks later.
The Swedes were farmers. Their transportation was by dugout canoe. Most Swedes owned horses and oxen, but few owned carriages or wagons. They traveled along the creeks and rivers. Overland “roads”, secondary paths, were mainly Indian trails. Thomas Paschal, a 1682 immigrant from Bristol, England noted: “most of the Sweads and Finns are ingenious people: they speak English, Swead, Finn, Dutch and the Indian.” … “have lived much at ease, having great plenty of all sorts of provisions.” … “plant but little Indian corn, nor tobacco” … “their women make the most of the linen cloth they wear; they spin and weave it and make fine linen. Many of them are curious housewives: The people generally eat rye bread, being approve of best by them.”