Above: Augustana College, Rock Island, Illinois, 1914
Image Source = Library of Congress
J195906–U.S. Copyright Office
Copyright Claimant = Haines Photo Company, Conneaut, Ohio
VICTOR OLOF PETERSEN (SEPTEMBER 24, 1864-FEBRUARY 14, 1929)
Swedish-American Lutheran Hymn Translator
Victor Olof Petersen, whose surname some sources list as “Peterson,” loved hymns and translated certain Danish and Swedish hymns into English. I have found three of his translations. “O Bride of Christ, Rejoice” was under copyright in 1996 yet had entered the public domain by the time the Lutheran Service Book (2006) rolled off the presses. “Wheresoe’er I Roam” was under copyright when The Covenant Hymnal: A Worshipbook (1996) debuted. I do not know if the text is still under copyright. Likewise, I have no information regarding the copyright status of “My Heart is Yearning Ever,” which I found in The Hymnal and Order of Service (1925, The Evangelical Lutheran Augustana Synod). I do know that the translations have become increasingly difficult to find, except in certain old hymnals and a few current ones.
Petersen, born at Skede, Smaland, Sweden, on September 24, 1864, was a scientist and an educator. He emigrated to the United States of America in 1867. His early education occurred at Stanton, Iowa. Then our saint attended Augustana College, Rock Island, Illinois–first the academy then the college proper. (Many colleges used to have high schools attached to them.) Petersen graduated from college in 1889. That summer he worked under a former professor, Dr. Joshua Lindahl, at the state museum in Springfield. Next our saint taught physics and chemistry at Augustana College for sixteen years, becoming a professor after he completed some course work at Harvard University. In 1906 Petersen became the Secretary of the Rock Island Tropical Plantation Company. From 1907 to 1913 he managed the Chalohijapa Plantation in southern Mexico. When the Mexican Revolution forced our saint to return home, he worked in real estate and insurance in Rock Island for seven years. From 1920 to 1928 Petersen chaired the Department of Chemistry at Huron College, Huron, South Dakota. He died at Huron on February 14, 1929.
Petersen was active in the American Lutheran Church, Huron, in the 1920s. He was presumably a member of the Augustana Synod, which had Swedish origins, for a long time. The Huron congregation, officially The English Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Holy Communion of Huron, Beadle County, South Dakota, or “The English Lutheran Church” for short, until 1923, was of Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish origin. In 1909 it affilated with the Synod of the Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (1853-1917), a predecessor body of, in order, the Norwegian Lutheran Church of America (1917-1946)/The Evangelical Lutheran Church (1946-1960), the American Lutheran Church (1960-1987), and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). Likewise, the Augustana Synod preceded the Lutheran Church in America (1962-1987) and the ELCA.
Petersen died and denominational labels have changed, but his translations of Danish and Swedish hymns continue to exist. You, O reader, might find them (or at least some of them) edifying.
KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR
JANUARY 22, 2014 COMMON ERA
THE FEAST OF SAINT SYNCLETIA OF ALEXANDRIA, DESERT MOTHER
THE FEAST OF SAINT ABELARD OF CORBIE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK
THE FEAST OF JOHN JULIAN, ANGLICAN PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMNOLOGIST
THE FEAST OF SAINT VINCENT PALLOTTI, FOUNDER OF THE PALLOTINES
Dear God of beauty,
you have granted literary ability and spiritual sensitivity to
Victor Olof Petersen and others, who have translated hymn texts.
May we, as you guide us,
find worthy hymn texts to be icons,
through which we see you.
In the Name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Sirach/Ecclesiasticus 44:1-3a, 5-15
KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR
APRIL 20, 2013 COMMON ERA
THE FEAST OF SAINTS AMATOR OF AUXERRE AND GERMANUS OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS; SAINT MAMERTINUS OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AND SAINT MARCIAN OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK
THE FEAST OF JOHANNES BUGENHAGEN, GERMAN LUTHERAN PASTOR
THE FEAST OF SAINT MARCELLINUS OF EMBRUN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP
THE FEAST OF OLAVUS AND LAURENTIUS PETRI, RENEWERS OF THE CHURCH