The Nordic era

The contemporary mood was distinctly Nordic. Sweden and Norway still formed a union, and in 1872 King Oscar II succeeded Karl XV Johan, with the motto “Brödrafolkens väl” [wellbeing of the brother peoples]. In the same year, the first meeting of Nordic lawyers was held in Copenhagen. One outcome of this meeting was the introduction of uniform exchange regulations in Denmark, Norway and Sweden. The Scandinavian Monetary Union was established a year later, which meant that the Danish, Swedish and Norwegian crowns had the same value and were legal currency in all three countries. New Nordic legal conferences then followed every three years; by the end of the century they had given rise to a Trademark Act (1880), Companies Act (1889), Maritime Act (1892), Patent Act (1894) and Check Act (1897), all with the same provisions in the three countries.

In 1872, Artur Hazelius opened a Scandinavian ethnographic museum on Drottninggatan in the Swedish capital; in 1880 he transferred his collection to a trust owned by the Swedish people and launched his enormous Nordic Museum project. A major Scandinavian-inspired spelling conference was arranged in Stockholm. One French impulse came in the form of the metric system, the introduction of which began in Sweden in 1876.

In 1875, there was fierce debate about the Technological Institute, whose teaching was unable to keep up with rapid developments in technology. The new industries were crying out for competent engineers but there was doubt about whether those trained by the institute had the practical approach required. A leading figure in the debate was Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld, professor of mineralogy at the institute, Arctic explorer, member of parliament and the most famous Swede of his age (born in Finland, he had become a political refugee after criticizing the rule of the Russian czar). Four years after he submitted a bill to the Riksdag in 1872, it decided to establish a new educational institution in Stockholm by reorganizing and raising standards at the Technological Institute and changing its name to the Royal Institute of Technology, the name it retains today.

Lars Magnus Ericsson almost certainly followed this debate closely. His own theoretical training was the result of his own studies; on the other hand, his comprehensively planned study trips and his posts at several leading European workshops had given him outstanding, multifaceted, practically oriented, technological expertise of a kind that could not be acquired through higher education.

Back home, Lars Magnus also made another discovery: that those returning after time abroad cannot always go back to the positions they once held. Öller had appointed a man called Edholm to supervise the workshop, and it soon became apparent that neither Edholm’s knowledge nor his authority could match Lars Magnus’s. Whenever the workmen wanted advice on a ticklish issue, they always turned to Lars Magnus who, to begin with, attempted to adapt to Edholm’s “singular and unrestrained character”, but in the end came to the conclusion that it was pointless, and so he gave notice.

“Then followed gloomy concern about what should be done. The manufacturing resources in the field in which I felt I had some merit were so inconsiderable in Stockholm that I did not consider it worth my while to offer my services. After a great deal of consideration my decision was, with God in my heart, to start a small workshop of my own.”

Shortly beforehand, Lars Magnus had refused an offer of employment with the Bank of Sweden, for producing the plates with which banknotes were printed. This was a flattering offer, not least in view of the forgery of which he had been guilty in his early teens. Instead Lars Magnus recommended O.G. Eklöf, a fellow Öller’s employee, who was given the job.

Author: Svenolof Karlsson & Anders Lugn

© Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson and Centre for Business History

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