Lars Magnus Ericsson’s mechanical engineering workshop

When Lars Magnus Ericsson mechanical engineering workshop opened its doors, the first customer was the Stockholm Fire Department, which on April 6, 1876 paid the sum of SEK 2 for the repair of instruments. This laid the foundation for a global company, although Lars Magnus Ericsson himself had no such ambitions when he started his company.

1876 was the year when the American inventor Alexander Graham Bell submitted his application for a patent on a working telephone, but Lars Magnus Ericsson had no knowledge of this. L M Ericsson & Co., as the company was called, was not founded to exploit any invention. Instead, the objective was to achieve the founder?s dream of independence.

Lars Magnus Ericsson had extensive training as an instrument maker and had also worked abroad in Germany and Switzerland. At the age of 30, he stepped out on his own. Apart from Lars Magnus Ericsson himself, the company's employees consisted of Gabriel Bildsten, a 12-year old errand boy, and Carl Johan Andersson, a colleague who soon became Ericsson's partner.

The workshop was situated in a small kitchen in the courtyard building at Drottninggatan 15 in Stockholm. Repairs and small mechanical engineering jobs were the company's main business during the initial years. Work also included repairs of telegraph instruments.

The Swedish State Railways quickly became the largest customer. In September, Ericsson delivered two pointer telegraphs of his own design to the railway. This was the largest order to date, for which he was paid the well-needed sum of SEK 860.

For the first fiscal year, the company's profits amounted to SEK 298.29. In 1876, an instrument maker earned about SEK 18 per week for 65 hours work.

Operations soon outgrew the workshop, which was moved towards the end of 1876 to Jakobsbergsgatan 23B. The following year, it was time to move again to an old courtyard at Oxtorget.

By this time, the telephone had come to Sweden. The first demonstrations were held in Stockholm in August 1877. On October 13, Joseph Leja advertised a new telephone in the Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter. One of Leja's first customers was Henrik Thore Cedergren, who installed telephones connecting his jewelry store on Drottninggatan 31 and his residence at number 84 on the same street. Cedergren was the man who a few years later would start Stockholms Allmänna Telefonaktiebolag (SAT).

No one knows exactly when Lars Magnus Ericsson himself first came into contact with the new invention. It may have been at the end of 1877 or in early 1878. It is clear, however, that he soon received telephones for repair and that he not only immediately realized the telephones possibilities, but also discovered weaknesses in Bell's design that he subsequently began to correct.

The first time a telephone is mentioned in Ericsson's business records was on March 4, 1878, when he received SEK 4 for the repair of six telephone sets.

The first telephones manufactured by Ericsson were presented later that year. The first two telephones with ear trumpets were delivered to Bredenbergs on November 14 at a price of SEK 55 per pair. More deliveries soon followed. It was also during this year that Lars Magnus Ericsson married Hilda Simonsson, who quickly became involved in the mechanical engineering workshop's business.

By 1880, Ericsson's workshop had ten employees. Production now consisted of telephones, fire telegraphs and various types of electrical instruments. The workshop once again changed premises to Biblioteksgatan 5, where it remained for the following four years.

In fierce competition with the Bell Company, L M Ericsson & Co was chosen in 1881 as the supplier to the newly established Gefle Telefonförening. Shortly thereafter, Ericsson was selected as the telephone supplier for Bergen in Norway.

By 1882, there were 50 employees who worked 65 hours a week. The company now supplied complete wall phones in a model that soon became known throughout the world as the "Swedish pattern".

The workshop was modernized in 1883, and a steam engine was installed to power the manufacturing tools, presses, etc. A move was once again necessary. Ericsson made a major investment and purchased a lot on Tulegatan, which at that time was on the outskirts of the city. An industrial building was erected that was ready for occupancy in the autumn of 1884.

The following years up until the company's incorporation in 1896 were characterized by strong growth and new customers around the world. In 1887, the world's largest telephone station at that time was inaugurated in Stockholm using a multiple switchboard designed by Ericsson.

At the time of incorporation in 1896, Lars Magnus Ericsson's company had grown into a major enterprise. Additional manufacturing plants had been erected on Tulegatan. There were more than 500 employees, and the major share of production was exported. By June 1, 1896, Erisson?s workshops had produced 100,000 telephones.

Author: Thord Andersson