Next Event:

Jenny Lind on Tour: The Nightingale, the Showman, and the Making of a Celebrity

Sunday March 26, 2023, 4:00pm
at St. Luke’s Lutheran Church
3264 Northside Pkwy NW, Atlanta, GA 30327

Dr. Anita Olson Gustafson, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts at Mercer University and Professor of History will visit us and talk about the famous opera singer Jenny Lind’s tour of the United States in 1850.

Many Swedes are familiar with the famous Swedish opera singer from the 1840s and -50s, though perhaps not with her wildly successful American tour in 1850. The story is a fascinating one, that reflects both the promise and the challenges of the young and growing United States of those years.

The meeting starts at 4pm with “fika” and “Operatårta,” followed by a brief business meeting before Dr. Gustafson’s talk.

Cost: $10. Please RSVP before Thursday March 23 to Susanne Howard at 678-464-5127, or email, so we know how much fika to prepare!

On September 1, 1850, the Swedish opera diva Jenny Lind stepped off the steamer Atlantic in New York City, where as many as 40,000 adoring fans greeted her. So began her highly anticipated American tour, promoted, organized, and funded by none other than the American showman, P.T. Barnum. It was a year in which the United States Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Law and voted to admit California to the Union as a free state, part of a compromise that would patch but not heal the growing rift between the North and the South. So called “fire-eaters,” such as Robert Barnwell Rhett of South Carolina, called for the South to secede from a Union that threatened the right to protect and expand the institution of slavery. Jenny Lind’s tour provided a much-welcomed distraction from the divisive issues dominating the nation’s political discourse.

Although she was famous in America before her affiliation with Barnum, Jenny Lind became a superstar under his management. Her unparalleled success on her American tour was related directly to the fact that Barnum promoted her as a selfless, religious, and generous woman—exactly the characteristics expected of respectable women of her day.

Most Americans in the North and the South welcomed Jenny Lind warmly as she toured cities east of the Mississippi River. The one exception to an otherwise wildly successful tour was her visit to Charleston—the heart of secessionist sentiment—where local residents virtually ignored her arrival and where she had to prove herself worthy of adoration. Charlestonians held P.T. Barnum’s promotional tactics in disdain, expressed their skepticism about the true abilities of Jenny Lind, and generally remained aloof as Lind and her entourage settled into their Charleston lodgings. As in other cities, however, Lind eventually won over her audience with her remarkable talents and her spirit of generosity.