The galloping frying pan

This episode from Ericsson's eventful history comes from the crisis years of the early 1930s. It was recorded by Ivan Lundh and C-G Löfgren, two employees who at that time worked at the sales company L M Ericssons Försäljningsaktibolag where these events occurred in 1934.

- Following the Kreuger crash and the reconstruction of the parent company, it was unfortunately necessary to lay off many employees and to reduce staff in both the manufacturing plant and the office.

To keep the machines running and to avoid laying off too great a proportion of the existing workforce, management devoted considerable effort to finding new products for manufacturing to supplement the reduction of orders for ordinary production.

New products manufactured on a larger scale included cash registers, which were subsequently taken over by Svenska Kassaregister AB, System Paulius precision barometers and altimeters and accounting machines for AB Ekonomiregistret. In addition, the company took up manufacturing in small series of such products as tents and camping beds, frying pans, stainless steel pots, parts for razors, etc.

Because Swedish material sales, which were administered from Kungstornet in Stockholm, was the entry point for all Swedish orders except switching stations for the public telegraph authority, this department was given the task of administering these orders and dealing with all the surprises and upsets associated with new production.

A tragicomic episode from this period was the story of the galloping and sometimes exploding frying pan that provided a demonstration of the quality of L M Ericsson's manufacturing.

The company received a visit one day from an inventor and his companion, who wanted L M Ericsson to manufacture 10,000 frying pans. This was the world's best frying pan, which heated very evenly and was impossible to burn. A certificate was produced in which none other than the legendary Swedish chef Ekgårdh, who at the time was in charge of the well-known restaurant Operakällaren, attested to the frying pans superb qualities.

Estimates of production costs were obtained from the plant, and a contract was signed with an established distributor for delivery of 10,000 frying pans, including several hundred for immediate delivery. Production was started, and the first deliveries were made to the distributor, who was anxiously waiting for the new frying pans. He had a large staff of traveling salesmen, who would conduct a sales campaign by traveling around the countryside to farms where they would demonstrate new kitchen products.

After a few weeks, the delivery of the first samples was returned, along with a cancellation of the contract by an angry distributor, who provided a detailed description of what had happened during the demonstration of the world's best frying pan. The traveling salesman had gathered all the housewives in the village in a farmhouse kitchen. When everyone was in place, he put the frying pan on the stove to fry pork.

After a while, when the frying pan had become warm, it started dancing around on the stove, whereupon it began hopping up and down. After a few minutes, it exploded with a bang, causing the pork to hit the ceiling and the fat to splatter all over the assembled housewives who quickly fled the kitchen in fright.

The cause of this mishap was as follows. The frying pan had a double bottom with an insulating substance between the two bottoms. The test pan's bottoms had been joined together by hand with a hammer, meaning that the joint was not as tight as when the frying pan was produced by a machine in which the bottoms were joined together by a strong press.

Further complicating matters was that the insulating material was slightly damp when the bottoms were joined, meaning that when the frying pan was heated on the stove, it became a boiler without a safety valve. The fault was easily corrected by drilling a small hole beneath the handle to release any possible steam, thus ending the story of the galloping frying pan. It is worth asking, however, why the frying pan was not tested before delivery, but this never happened, since L M Ericsson had never made frying pans before. The times were also such that there was a shortage of pork.

The distributor was so shaken by this experience, however, that when the cause of the mishap had been explained to him and he had been assured that the fault had been corrected, he only ordered 500 frying pans, only gradually increasing orders to 1,000 until the stocks were depleted. Thereafter, however, he was very disappointed that L M Ericsson would no longer continue to manufacture the world's best frying pan. By that time, the manufacturing plant had resumed its own production of the world's best telephones.

Author: Thord Andersson (red.)

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