A heart of gold and a will of steel
Henrik Thore Cedergren was born on New Years Eve 1853. He was a native of Stockholm and raised in a well-to-do upper class family. His parents were named Gustav Adolf and Lovisa Sofia (maiden name Robsahm). Gustav Adolf Cedergren was a jeweler, and his brother Albert Nestor became a forester. The latter is remembered in the Stockholm area as the person who commissioned the building of the Cedergrenska Tower in Stocksund.
Henrik Thore suffered from heart problems at birth, and it was feared that his life would be short. When the family doctor visited the Cedergren home on one occasion, he discovered that the boy was learning to play the piano. "Can't the boy die in peace!" exclaimed the doctor.
The boy was strong-willed and a survivor. He was not forced to exert himself in school, however, but instead was educated at home. Subsequently, he was admitted as a student at the Royal Institute of Technology, where he earned an engineering degree. When his father died, he took over the jewelry store, but also became active in the building industry. There was considerable construction in Stockholm at the time, and Cedergren opened a brickyard on Götgaran. Clay that he purchased from the foundations of new buildings was turned into bricks for the builders.
However, following the start of Stockholms Allmänna Telefonaktiebolag (SAT), the telephone business came to dominate his professional life.
Cedergren's success would not have been possible without his exceptional organizational and administrative talents, but he was also a gifted engineer. His technical expertise had been forged through his engineering studies and enhanced through practical work and further studies on his own. Cedergren made several study trips to the US, where he also established contact with leaders in the telephone industry. With his extensive technical knowledge and innovative mind, Cedergren, could participate in, and contribute to, the technical work at the telephone company, engaging in discussions with engineers and plant managers, as well as monitoring work both in the network and at the stations.
The fact that Cedergren selected Lars Magnus Ericsson's company as the supplier to SAT was not only due to Ericsson's skill as a designer. In the upper class spirit of the times, Cedergren was also proud of everything Swedish, and employing a Swedish manufacturer was for him an act of patriotism.
It was not always easy to work with Cedergren. His own working days were very long, and he demanded of his employees that they should devote as much time to their work as he did. In additions, Cedergren had a fiery temper and could become extremely angry with someone who in his view had not followed instruction. His anger usually passed quickly, however, when he realized that he had gone too far. At the same time, he was quick to praise employees for a job well done.
Cedergren was curious, and on his travels, he tried to see as much as possible. If he saw a door with a "No entrance" sign, he was fond of saying: "Let's go in inside. There must be something interesting in there."
Cedergren liked to organize large banquets and parties that were intended to promote his business. On these occasions, he had a reputation of being a perfect host who made sure that his guests were never lacking with respect to food, drink and entertainment. In everyday work, however, he was less generous and often exhibited an economic nature that at times verged on frugality.
Henrik Thore Cedergren was married twice. The first time, at the age of 22, he married Emma Sofia Frisk, who was one year older. Together they had a son Gustaf. When Emma died in 1882, he lived alone for some years but married again in 1907 with Ida Pegelow, who was seven years younger and whom he had met through his work. Her sister Elly Pegelow was the supervisor for SAT main station at Malmskillnadsgatan, and her brother Fredrik Pegelow was general director for Swedish Rail and chairman of the board of SAT and AB Stockholmstelefon. Ida herself, however, did not work in the telephone business. She began her career as a cashier and later became an office manager.
His second marriage was not to last long, however. Cedergren had always suffered from physical weakness yet worked hard nonetheless. Finally, his poor health took its toll, and he passed away on April 13, 1909 at the age of 55.
H T Cedergren left behind an estate valued at SEK 11 million, of which more than SEK 10 million consisted of shares in SAT. According to Cedergren's will, half of his net wealth should be given to the H T Cedergren Training Fund, which he himself had established to provide economic support for gifted but poor children so that they would be able to receive a higher education. His hope was that they as adults would contribute to developing Sweden as an industrial nation. This was an example of Cedergren's practically oriented patriotism.
According to the terms of the will, Ida Cedergren, Fredrik Pegelow, Albert Nestor Cedergren and first secretary Johan Flodin would administer the fund. Cedergren also expressed his desire that the fund managers should support the appointment of his son Gustaf, who was working for the Mexeric telephone company in Mexico, as president of SAT, but the company's chief engineer Gottlieb Piltz was appointed instead.
Author: K V Tahvanainen & Mats Wickman
Telefon AB Cedergren, share certificate. In use until 1913. Value: SEK 500. Signed by the founder, Henrik Thore Cedergren, himself.
The telephone tower of Stockholms Allmänna Telefon AB, above the main office of the company.