The lady with the copper wire

For people who found their way to Hanna Hammarström's production plant for insulated copper wire, a modest factory situated in the courtyard at Stora Vattugatan 5 in Stockholm, it wasn't easy to imagine they were dealing with a cutting-edge company. The owner, a woman born in 1829, began her career working for her father, Per Hammarström, a cotton and silk merchant. He gave his daughter a machine to produce overspun metal wire, a product in strong demand from milliners who used it to model ladies' hats. After the establishment of Stockholms Allmänna Telefonaktiebolag (SAT) in 1883, Hanna Hammarström started to experiment with the production of telephone cable based on the same principle. As a woman in the production industry, which was dominated by men, she was initially treated with a general lack of confidence, but SAT's founder H. T. Cedergren and Lars Magnus Ericsson supported her business venture. In 1886, Lars Magnus Ericsson provided a workplace for her in his workshop at Tulegatan 5. She was offered power for machinery from the workshop through a rotating shaft that was drawn through a hole in the wall. For this power, she paid SEK 1 a day.

Hanna Hammarström became the first person in Sweden to establish commercial business operations for the production of telephone wire. In the past, all wire and cable had been imported from Germany, but wire imports were reduced by Hanna Hammarström's new business.

She was also a friend of the Ericsson family and kept Lars Magnus informed about the competition. In August 1885, Ericsson's wife Hilda sent him a letter while he was visiting the US. She told him that "Miss Hammarström came down yesterday and asked me to inform you in all confidence that Edholm has returned from America and has several ideas he intends to sell and patent. She was very anxious that he might take the lead over you with something here."

Hanna Hammarström also exported wire to Finland. In the early 1900s, her company had eight employees, all women that she had trained herself. They operated five large gimping machines, as well as spindle looms and spooling machines, producing telephone and microphone wires, conduction cable and double-woven cable. At an exhibition for power and production machinery in Stockholm in 1886, Hanna Hammarström won first prize, a silver medal, a certificate and a plaque that were displayed in her factory. She continued to work in her factory until her death in 1909.

Author: Lena Svanberg

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