“More than two hundred persons, among whom were a great number of ladies, assembled yesterday in the Gala-rooms of the Grand Hotel [Stockholm] in order to celebrate the bi-centennial of the birth of Emanuel Swedenborg. . . . Noteworthy among the participants were the former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Baron Hochschield [sic], the Lord Chamberlain Baron Carl Jevard Bonde, the President Woern, the Professors Baron Nordenskjold, Victor Rydberg, [Hugo] Gylden, Members of the Academy of Science, higher officials, prominent physicians, members of the Diet, manufacturers, merchants, members of the New Church in this place, and others” (January 30, 1888 entry from Stockholm’s Dagblad (Newspaper) in New Church Life 1888, 41).
Across the Atlantic in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, members of the Academy of the New Church were also celebrating the bicentennial of Emanuel Swedenborg’s birth. The festivities took the form of a public meeting held at their old building on Cherry Street (see photo, left). A telegram from Sweden’s “Royal Academy” (presumably The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences) announcing the Grand Hotel celebration was read by John Pitcairn. The Academy of the New Church sent back the following reply: “The memory of Swedenborg will live forever” (New Church Life 1888, 39).
A record of that evening has been preserved in New Church Life and in a program written by Rev. William H. Benade (see photo, left). Below is a typed version of Benade’s handwritten page.
Jan. 29th 1888,
Two-hundredth Anniversary of
the Birth of Emanuel Swedenborg.
1. Telegram received from the Royal Academy at Stockholm, and
2. Some account of the Royal Academy,
Mr. C.T. Odhner.
3. Letter of Rev. Tho’Hartley, and Swedenborg’s Answer. Documents- P. I. p. 1-9,
[?] P. II. p. 436
4. The Church & the World at the time of the
Birth of Swedenborg, Rev. E.J.E. Schreck.
5. Swedenborg the Student, Mr. E.S. Price.
6. Swedenborg the Philosopher, Rev. W.F. Pendleton.
7. Swedenborg the Revelator, Rev. L.H. Tafel.
8. Swedenborg the Servant of the Lord
Jesus Christ, W.H. Benade.”
As part of a closing prayer, Benade expressed this sentiment: “In cherishing and celebrating the memory of this illustrious man, let us lift up our thoughts to the LORD, to His infinite Love and Mercy, and praise and glorify Him that it pleased Him to provide this instrument furnished by Him with such marvelous powers. . . .” (New Church Life 1888, 40).
Photos: The portrait of Swedenborg was painted in 1817 by Carl Fredrik von Breda, and is in the collection of Glencairn Museum, Bryn Athyn, PA (accession number 06.OP.75). The photograph of the Cherry Street building is from an early postcard and is in the collection of the Academy of the New Church Archives, Swedenborg Library, Bryn Athyn, PA. William H. Benade’s handwritten program is in the collection of the Glencairn Museum Archives. The words “Pitcairn, John,” were written in pencil at the top of the document at a later date.
Questions and comments may be addressed to the editors at [email protected].