Lars Magnus Ericsson was born in 1846. His father died the year he turned 12. He lived on a farm called Nordtomta with his mother and two younger sisters. Life on their small farm had been meager and strenuous even when the father was alive, and with his death the situation worsened.

When Lars Magnus finished school, he helped his mother with all the chores that needed to be done on the farm. When he was 14, he worked during the summer at Borgvik, a nearby farm where he earned SEK 0.50 per day. He needed no money himself, so everything he earned was given to his mother.

The following year in 1861, mining director Larsson, who was an old friend of his father, called at Nordtomta and related that he was on his way to Egersund in Norway to survey iron ore deposits.

Lars Magnus thought that this was exciting and asked to join the group of 20 men who were traveling to Egersund. After a short discussion between Larsson and his mother, he received permission to do so.

Lars Magnus task in his new employment was to carry drill bits between the ironsmith and the various exploration sites and to help the ironsmith. Climbing down the dark and damp shafts to collect the drills was strenuous work for a 15-year old. The pay was relatively good, however, which meant that Lars Magnus could send money to his mother that was needed at home.

One day, the ironsmith suddenly disappeared from the mine. "He longed for the city, where he remained for an unacceptably long period," explained Lars Magnus later. His tasks were immediately assumed by Lars Magnus, whose pay was further increased, meaning that he could send even more money to those at home. Lars Magnus remained in Norway for more than a year, but one day the mining director announced that work would be stopped, since continued mining was not profitable. It was thus time to return home.

After a few months at home at Nordtomta, Lars Magnus was asked to lead work in prospecting an iron lode in Jösse Härad just north of Arvika. The lode proved to be without value, however, and Lars Magnus instead took a job as a railway worker near the Norwegian border. At the same time, he had a strong desire to learn a trade, preferably in the mechanical industry.

He therefore applied for an apprenticeship with the ironmonger Johannes Hilt in Grafås and was accepted. Hult was soon taken sick, but he arranged for Lars Magnus to move to another ironmonger, Nils Andersson. Andersson often traveled in his work and gave the task of running the business to his son and Lars Magnus. In this job, Lars Magnus began working on a lathe for the first time and soon became extremely skilled.

Nils Andersson fell into financial difficulties and moved to the iron mill in Charlottenberg, where he was in charge of nail manufacturing. His contract with the mill allowed him to bring Lars Magnus with him. At the mill, Lars Magnus worked with nail manufacturing, but he also learned a lot about the various machines at the mill. In addition, he acquired theoretical knowledge. "In the evenings I was able for the first time to read books and magazines on mechanics and physics," wrote Lars Magnus.

In 1864, when Lars Magnus Ericsson was 18, he packed his things and once more set out on his own. He traveled south and came to Arvika, where he began working with an iron monger named Smedman. To supplement his meager income, he engraved small brass seals in the evenings, which he then sold. Nordtomta was not far from Arvika, which mean that he often visited his mother and his sisters.

After a time, Lars Magnus took a new job with the ironsmith Knut Bergman in Karlstad. In his shop, he did various types of iron work. Here he also became friends with another apprentice, Carl Johan Wennberg. The two were often together during their free time, but Lars Magnus continued engraving seals in the evenings. The extra income for the sale of seals was now sufficient that could save money for himself.

The months passed, and the two boys began to talk about going to Stockholm to try their luck. Finally, in September 1867, they decided to start the trip, but when they had come half way, Carl Johan changed his mind and returned. He later started a large mechanical engineering shop in Karlstad. When the two parted, they were still friends. A few days later, the poor farm boy Lars Magnus Ericsson arrived in Stockholm alone.

No one, least of all himself, could imagine that he a few decades later would create a global industry.

Author: Kåa Wennberg

Sweden, 1900s, silver mine, LM:s first job

The silver mine, not long from his birthplace, where Lars Magnus Ericsson was first employed

Ericsson, Lars Magnus (portrait, 1872).
Sweden, 1900s, Tulegatan plant

© Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson and Centre for Business History

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