Introduction of the telephone in Sweden

Just over a month later, on August 21–22, 1877, Bell telephones were demonstrated in Stockholm by Jens Hopstock, a Norwegian engineer who soon became Bell’s exclusive agent in Norway, Sweden and Denmark. As part of his marketing, Hopstock connected two Bell telephones between the Grand Hotel and the telegraph office at Skeppsbron, and lectured to the Swedish Railways Association. His main targets were officials at the Swedish Telegraph Board and Swedish Railways. King Oscar II was offered a special demonstration at the palace at Drottningholm, west of Stockholm. Two cables were erected between two of the royal buildings – “and the American apparatus passed muster one more time”, the press reported.

During this early phase of telephony, it may have been more difficult to understand human speech than tones. The remarkable feature of the telephone that was referred to repeatedly was its ability to transmit music. Newspapers took great pleasure in reporting one successful experiment after another that enabled listeners to hear concerts and operas performed elsewhere.

At the same time, many other ideas were evolving about how communication using telegraph wires could be developed. For instance, in 1877, the Swedish Family Journal reported an American experiment:

”It may hardly strike us as less remarkable that a recent invention makes it possible for telegraphy to enable a doctor to take a patient’s pulse even though there are many miles between them. This could undoubtedly benefit doctors who are in great demand. Recently the American physician Dr Upham in Salem near Boston has been able to show those attending his lectures the motion of the pulses of patients who were all lying in their beds at a hospital in Boston, 20 kilometers away. Telegraph wires had connected the hospital with the doctor’s lecture hall and when a patient’s heartbeat was automatically transmitted through them by an apparatus, it was reproduced with the help of magnesium light on the walls of the hall like a lantern slide so that the number of beats and the rate could accurately be determined.”

Lars Magnus’s curiosity about telephony was fairly natural. During his years studying abroad he had, as an instrument maker, become proficient in the cutting-edge telegraph technology that was so useful for customers such as the national railways. But he was also in touch with other Swedish innovators, such as Hakon Brunius, a telegraph engineer in Jönköping.

Brunius ran a small experimental workshop in his hometown where, among other things, he developed what he called a railway protector. He was also experimenting with electricity, constructing Sweden’s first generator and manufacturing the first Swedish light bulbs. He must have been in contact with Lars Magnus before the early summer of 1877 because the Ericsson workshop delivered a powerful magneto-inductor to Brunius on July 9.

Author: Svenolof Karlsson & Anders Lugn

USA, 1892, First call New York - Chicago, through Bell himself.

USA, 1892, First call New York - Chicago, through Bell himself.

© Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson and Centre for Business History

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