The great wide world

Lars Magnus was to spend three-and-a-half years abroad getting to know this great wide world, from the beginning of 1872 until the autumn of 1875. A decisive factor was the government travel grant he once again received, on the recommendation of Öller and others. The Franco-Prussian war of 1870–1871, which led to the establishment of Germany as a nation and confirmed its position as a major European power, delayed Lars Magnus’s departure, but then his travels took him to Berlin.

“I immediately found a position with Siemens & Halske, then the most eminent workshop in the world for telegraphy and electrical engineering, and I was immediately enraptured to see not merely superior engineering but also the excellent arrangements for the comfort of the workers, which have ever since lodged in my mind as the best of examples.”

Lars Magnus was to stay at Siemens & Halske for two full years, until the spring of 1874; he left the ultra-modern workshop with the greatest regret, and a deep respect for its founder, the inventor Werner Siemens. His next stop was Munich, where for some time he worked for a professor he referred to as “Carl” – perhaps Carl von Linde, a renowned professor of mechanics at the Institute of Technology there. Lars Magnus then moved on to Hassler & Escher’s “renowned” workshop in Bern, where he was involved in developing devices to record meteorological observations automatically. Then his journey took him to the famous instrument maker Matthias Hipp in Neuchatel, famous for achievements including his invention of the electric clock.

”My income in Switzerland was very sparse but by dint of living on bread and milk, and by traveling fourth-class, I was able to move on and ended up in Karslruhe where a certain Herr Schwerd had founded a factory for the manufacture of telegraph equipment for the Baden railways. As I had recently left Siemens, I was familiar with the area in which Herr Schwerd wished to work and may well have given him one or two useful hints, as when we had to part in the autumn, with tears in his eyes he proffered me a small gratuity.”

Before the winter of 1874–1875, Lars Magnus had drawn up an ambitious program of visits to workshops in various sectors of the engineering industry in Berlin, supported by a new grant from the Swedish Board of Trade. Over a six-month period he was able to work in five different factories in the city. His final call was Magdeburg where, at Scheffer & Budenberg, he gained some insight into the manufacture of manometers.

Lars Magnus wrote from Magdeburg to Carl Johan Andersson, his old workmate from Öller’s, for whom he had promised to find a place in Germany. After making sure that Andersson had settled down in Magdeburg, Lars Magnus returned to Stockholm.

“I did so with mixed feelings as the friendly reception I had received everywhere had not left me unmoved. In addition I had been made several offers that showed that I was trusted,” Lars Magnus was later to recount. For instance, Siemens & Halske had offered him the post of chief engineer at a factory in Smyrna (today Izmir in Turkey); in Munich, Professor Carl had offered him work as the university engineer. In Baden, Lars Magnus was offered the position of telegraphic engineer on the city tramways. Scheffer & Budenberg wanted him to be their representative in Sweden with a subsidiary in Stockholm. But Lars Magnus turned down every offer; he explained later that he wanted to prove himself worthy of the government grants he had received, so he returned to Sweden.

On his return, Lars Magnus discovered that the appearance of the city had changed considerably in just a few years. Central Station has been opened as a monument to the new age; only the Royal Palace was larger. In 1873, AB Atlas (today Atlas Copco) had erected a factory for the manufacture of locomotives and railway stock in the Rödaberg district, next to the Rörstrand pottery; within a year, Atlas had become Stockholm’s largest industry, with 610 employees. Finnboda Wharf had started operations at the entrance to Stockholm’s harbor, neighbored by a newly established superphosphate factory. To the north, Sabbatsberg hospital had been built, the largest in Sweden. A new fire station was being built on the heights around Johannes Church, and artists and writers were beginning to take up residence in the area to create a “little Montparnasse”. The Grand Hotel had opened on the then-island of Blasieholmen and its restaurant, Gropen [the Pit], soon became the fashionable haunt of celebrities and cultural dignitaries; one of its regulars was August Strindberg, recently employed by the Royal Library.

Author: Svenolof Karlsson & Anders Lugn

Telegraph, drawing by Lars Magnus during his time in Berlin, Germany.

Telegraph, drawing by Lars Magnus during his time in Berlin, Germany.

© Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson and Centre for Business History

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