Why is there a straw goat on Highway 218?

It’s sitting in the grass along the west side of the road on Highway 218, just north of Mount Pleasant. Technically, it’s a Julbock or Yule Goat, one of the oldest Scandinavian symbols. It’s there to welcome you to the town of Swedesburg, Iowa, and its rich Swedish-American history. Drive just two blocks past the Julbock into Swedesburg to 107 James Ave, where you’ll find the Swedish American Museum.

Location of the straw goat of Swedesburg: Southwest corner of 140th Street and Highway 218, in Swedesburg, Iowa

Location of the Swedish-American Museum: 107 James Ave, Swedesburg, Iowa

What can you expect to see at the Swedish-American Museum in Swedesburg?

Ole the Dala Horse

Standing outside the museum is Iowa’s tallest Dala Horse, named Ole by the locals. Ole stands over 10 feet tall and is made of fiberglass. The traditional dala horse is made of wood and served originally as a toy for children, but is now known as the national symbol for Sweden. Technically, a dala horse isn’t a dala unless is made in the province of Dalarna in Sweden. Regardless, Ole makes for a great photo op and helps draw your attention to the museum.

Iowa’s largest Dala Horse stands outside the Swedish-American Museum in Swedesburg, Iowa

Collection of Swedish Heritage Items

Once in the museum (which used to be a grocery store), you’ll be offered an 8-minute video that provides you with an overview of Swedesburg and its Swedish heritage. Among the displays, you’ll see traditional Swedish clothing and dresses, and chests that families used to transport their belongings to the United States.

The museum features several chests and lockers, along with the items that the families carried with them when the moved to the United States from Sweden.

A Psalmodikon is what most rural churches used before they could afford a traditional organ.
Traditional Swedish dresses and clothing are also on display.

Gift Shop

As you would expect, the gift shop features a lot of Swedish items, including Dala Horses of all sizes, Swedish Recipes, and other books. Also your standard trinkets and souvenirs, but also imported Swedish items, including candies from Norway and Sweden.

A variety of Dala Horses are for sale in the gift shop, along with many other traditional Swedish items.
No Swedish fish – but there were several types of Swedish and Norwegian chocolates and candies.
Julbocks or straw “Christmas Goats” from Norse mythology are on display and some are for sale in the gift shop.

Genealogy Library

In the back of the museum, there’s a room reserved for family history. If you’re researching your Swedish ancestry lines, you’re welcome to ask them for assistance.

Volunteers can help you dig into your Swedish roots in the library.

Exterior Buildings

Behind the museum, there are three more buildings. Samuel L. White General Store and Charles E. Bergh Tin Shop, both of which were established in 1875. The tin-smith shop includes a huckster wagon — a smaller version of a Conestoga. The last building is a stuga, or small Swedish cottage, showing what a typical home would be like. The stuga is painted in a coppery-red color with paint from Sweden.

During warm weather, the tin shop and general store are open for visitors.
This is a stuga, a traditional Swedish cottage or home, which is one of the three exterior buildings on the grounds of the Swedish-American Museum.
Entrance to the Swedish-American Museum in Swedesburg, Iowa

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