Thomas studied law and in his thirties he was sent by Abraham Lincoln to Sweden as a consul, where he was placed in Gothenburg 1863 – 1865. He became deeply committed to the people and culture of the country, even learning to speak Swedish during his stay.
He returned to Sweden as a diplomat for two periods, first as a minister resident 1883 – 1885 and later as an ambassador in Stockholm between 1898 and 1905. He amazed the audiences, both in Sweden and later in the Swedish-American colonies, by holding his speeches in Swedish. He married a Swedish woman and acquired a mansion-like summer cottage by the sea, just outside Karlshamn in southeastern Sweden. After his death in 1927, at the age of 88, he was buried in Portland, lauded as being one of the most important persons within the Swedish-American relations.
So what is his connection Gustaf Tenggren?
In 1904, W W Thomas' nephew, Henry George Thomas, traveled the county of Dalarna in Sweden collecting rural antiques of all kinds. The next year over a thousand of items were shipped to Portland, Maine, where they stayed put in storage until 1945 when the whole collection was purchased by Gustaf Tenggren. No one knows what the things were meant for, or why they were never unpacked. There are guesses about a Swedish museum connected to the colony of Swedish immigrants that W W Thomas brought to Maine.
The photo was taken in 1921 when he was once more urged to go to Sweden as minister. While at that time being 82, he declined.
|Gustaf Tenggren in the midst of a number of
the more than thousand Swedish antiques acquired in 1945.