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David Ferdinand Swenson papers

Identifier: ua-01071

Scope and Content

In 1911-1912, Swenson was asked to serve on the Minneapolis School Board. In 1917, he was again asked to fill a vacancy but, because this action was declared unconstitutional, he ran for the position and was elected to fill the remainder of the term. During this time, he discovered a large deficit in the Board's financial records, and wrote a pamphlet entitled, "The Finances of the Minneapolis Schools," which examines the problem. (Folder 3)

In the 1920s, Swenson became involved in the issue of the anti-evolution bill in the Minnesota State Legislature. Because of his opposition to the bill, he was involved in several debates and corresponded with several Christian fundamentalists, most notably W.B. Riley, George Taylor and Harry Rimmer. (Folders 6-11).

Swenson corresponded with Upton Sinclair in 1922-1923 regarding a manuscript which Sinclair was writing on academic freedom. Swenson discusses several faculty members as well as the management of the University and state lands in two letter dated October 8, 1922 and October 25, 1922. Swenson's comments on chapters from Sinclair's manuscript on the Minneapolis School Board, are in a letter dated November 26, 1923. (Folder 5).

Swenson's interests in journalism are evident in the collection. His opinions regarding journalists and newspapers in general can be found in folder 4. The Kierkegaard material includes manuscripts of translations by Swenson (Folders 19-31) and reviews of translations published by David and Lillian Swenson (Folders 32-39). Correspondence files include the following: American Scandinavian Foundation (Folder 40), Eduard Geismar of the University of Copenhagen (Folders 41-43), Dr. Walter Lowrie (Folders 54-56), Princeton University Press (Folder 47) and general correspondence from various individuals regarding Kierkegaard (Folder 48).


  • 1912-1978


Language of Materials


Use of Materials

Items in this collection do not circulate and may be used in-house only.


Researchers may quote from the collection under the fair use provision of the copyright law (Title 17, U.S. Code). Requests to publish should be arranged with the University of Minnesota Archives.

Biographical Sketch of David F. Swenson (1876-1940)

David Ferdinand Swenson was born in Kristinehamn, Sweden, in 1876. He came to the United States at the age of six. He was educated in the Minneapolis Public Schools and attended the University of Minnesota, graduating in 1898. He was an instructor in the Department of Philosophy from 1901 to 1906, Assistant Professor from 1906 to 1913, Associate Professor from 1913 to 1917, and Professor from 1917 to 1940. In 1936 he was appointed chairman of the Department of Philosophy upon the retirement of Norman Wilde.

Swenson was an authority on the life and writings of the Danish philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard, and spent much of his professional life translating Kierkegaard's works into English. Two of these translations were published before his death in 1940. They are Philosophical Fragments(1936) and Two Discourses(1938).

Lillian Marvin, also a graduate of the University of Minnesota in 1898, married Swenson in 1912. After his death, she learned to read Danish and continued working on the translations of Kierkegaard which Swenson had left unfinished. The following works were published as a result of her efforts: Edifying Discourses, Volumes I-IV (1943-1947), Either/Or, Volume 1 (1945), Works of Love(1946), Gospel of Suffering and Lilies of the Field(1948). She also compiled and edited Something About Kierkegaard(1941), which is a collection of Swenson's philosophical talks, and Kierkegaardian Philosophy and the Faith of a Scholar (1949), also a collection of Swenson's addresses and essays. Lillian Swenson died in 1961.


1 Cubic Feet (4 hollinger boxes)


This collection consists of the papers of David F. Swenson, professor of philosophy at the University of Minnesota.


Lillian Swenson organized the collection into two major sections which she termed "Kierkegaard" and "Non-Kierkegaard." The "Non-Kierkegaard" section includes papers relating to Swenson's interests, especially in the earlier years of his career. Some of the material which she lists, especially in the Kierkegaard section, was not found in the collection upon processing. She arranged most of the material chronologically. Because it was necessary to reorganize some of the material for the most logical research use and because of the disappearance of some of the material, the original folder inventory is included in the first folder for reference purposes only.

The correspondence files in the Kierkegaard section of the collection had been originally bound. These volumes were cut during processing to allow placement in folders to facilitate the preservation and use of this material. Special storage boxes were provided by the library for storage of the collection.

Source of acquisition

The Swenson papers were deposited in University Archives by Lillian Swenson over a period of several years during the 1940s.

Related Materials in University Archives

Frank Miller Rarig papers

Inventory of the David Ferdinand Swenson papers, 1912-1978
Karen Klinkenberg; updated by Karen Spilman
Updated May 2004
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Collecting Area Details

Contact The University Archives Collecting Area