Erik Gustaf Dahlin [1841-1923] Tanner and Family Patriarch   

One cow, a spinning wheel, a loom, four chairs, two tables, one cupboard and some copper utensils; this was the 1869 estate inventory for Erik’s father Johan Eric [Anderrson] Dahl after Erik’s mother died. The family was very poor.

Considering such humble beginnings, Erik’s rise to operating and owning a successful tannery and also owning a rather large and attractive home is a testimony to his skills, perseverance and innate intelligence.

Little is known about Erik as a person but speculation based upon input from family members suggests the following: First, he was likely a tall, and powerful man for his time. This speculation is based upon comparisons to his oldest son Werner. People who knew Werner said he looked like his father. Werner was over six foot and described to be strong like an oak tree. Further, strength and stature would have been clear advantage to someone that started as an apprentice tanner who was able to promote himself to the owner of a tannery. Second, evidence suggests that he was deeply religious; this is based upon the dominance of Lutheran Christianity during his time and a note from his wife Anna to Erik’s son Carl shortly after Erik’s death that stated ----“poor father, He died in the belief of the Lord Jesus.” Finally, he likely had a firm and domineering presence. This presence would not have been unusual for a person who ‘pulled himself up by his own bootstraps’ and lost his first wife plus four children. To further support this concept, relatives that knew his wife Anna in Sweden suggested that Erik was very strict. In addition, Erik’s granddaughter, Inga [Dahlin] Blixt who met Erik once as a little girl appeared to be awed by Erik. She remembered standing trembling in front of her big and tall grandfather and saying: “Good day my name is Ingrid, Karlina, Elisabet Dahlin.” That was her only conversation. Ingrid also recalled that her mother, Edith, said she was very scared of her    father in law.

Erik’s Grandfather – Cotter and Crofter  Anders Pehrsson [1784-1856] and Catharina Oldsdotter [1782-1861] were married Nov 2,1807 in Södermanland County. Södermanland County is on the southeast coast of Sweden that borders Stockholm and the Baltic Sea. Anders as well as his parents Pehr Svensson and Maria [Maja] Ersdotter, were all born in this county.  Anders and his wife Catharina had 10 children ,at least eight survived. The family was extremely poor because the household examination rolls show Anders  in the early days of his marriage as a cotter [statare] and in later life a  crofter [torpare].

It is important to understand the difference between a cotter and a crofter to fully realize the living conditions of Erik Dahlin’s grandparents . Detailed information is provided in Appendix 1 and 2 for these two social groups but in very general terms a cotter was a married peasant who didn’t possess any land or livestock. A crofter was the Swedish version of a tenant farmer.  


 A family tree chart has been developed in an attempt to show family relationships. However in order to more fully understand the confusing system of patronymic [father based] surnames used since early times in Sweden, more information is also provided in Appendix 3.


Erik’s Father –Military Man    Johan Erik Andersson Dahl [1814-1893] was the son of a crofter [Swedish style tenant farmers] Usually the farm was inherited by the eldest son and in Johan’s case he had four older brothers. Consequently, Johan  had to make his own way and had options that included hiring out as a farm hand, taking up a village trade or joining the army. Johan ended up in the military.
During the 19th century and earlier Sweden had a unique military organization. By an agreement between the crown and land owned by landowners, the latter were guaranteed no conscriptions to the Army in peace or war. In return 3 or four landowners agreed to grant a piece of land and a cottage to support a soldier during his lifetime. Thus Sweden received a standing army that could be quickly mobilized.
 The soldier was required to attend military drills and in time of war was to report to duty, whenever that might be. Since the enlistee often had a very common patronymic name such as Anderson or Eriksson the military scribe would assign him a new military name.
These military names could be  based upon personal characteristics such  as Stadig [sturdy], or a nature name like Alm[elm] or in Johan’s case a name taken from a place, ie Dahl [valley]. The given soldier’s name was kept while he was in service. When he left the service, many like Johan kept his military name.
Johan Erik Dahl  married  Sophia Ersdotter[1814-1869] in Södermanland County Oct,11 1840.  Records note Johan as  soldier No.944 married in 1840 and that he settled in St. Datorp  soldiers’ cottage in Åker parish. The records also note that the soldiers’ cottage should have 1/2 acre arable and pasture land and pasture for 1 or two cows.. The family had at least five children . Eric Gustaf Dahl was born in 1841 and changed his name to Dahlin in 1861.
Erik Dahlin-  Apprentice /Journeyman Tanner   Like his father before him, Erik had an older brother so he had to find his own future outside the family home. Although he came from a poor family it can be assumed that he could read and write which would an important asset for work him. This assumption is based upon the fact that The Elementary School act of 1842 was in place which required that every parish have a school for children in that parish.
  In October 1857 when Erik was 16 the household examination records show him moving from his home in Åker parish to Mariefred-Kärnbo parish ; both are in Södermanland county. The records show he worked as an apprentice for the master tanner [garvare] Olof Setterholm.
When a person entered some type of trade he started working for a master craftsmen as an apprentice.            After demonstrating his skills in the trade and normally passing some kind of the test he became a journeyman. Journeymen were normally not married and lived in the master’s household.  However, in order to work as an independent craftsman and be able to train journeymen, one had to become a master craftsmen. In order to get more experience the journeyman did travel to different locations, hence the name ‘journey’-man.
  Eric Gustaf Dahlin moved to “undecided place” September 4,1862. This “undecided place” likely entailed his moving to the southern Sweden province of Småland in the town of Ljungby [Krononberg County].Ljungby parish records for 1866-1870 show him as a tanner but there is no notation of him owning land.  Eric married Emma Charlotta Wilhelmina Rydel September 2 1870 in Ljungby. They had two children Gusaf and Selma. Emma died of consumption June 28,1874 in Ljungby.
A young, mid- nineteenth century widower with two small children commonly sought a new wife. Erik search lead to a schoolteacher from Nöttja, Anna Kristina Andersdotter . He married this second wife August 8, 1875. At the time of their marriage, Erik’s son Gustaf would have been five and daughter Selma four. Records show the Dahlin family moved from Ljungby to Nöttja November 6, 1876 
Nöttja- Little Village, Little Church,Three little graves  Nöttja is a lovely little Småland village on River Bolmån about 20 Km southwest of Ljungby. This was also the little village where Anna was born and grew up and her family had lived for several generations.
The pride of the village is a little church that dates from the late 12th or early 13th century.  The church has been well preserved over the centuries. It never underwent the rebuilding, so frequently made of other churches during the 15th century, when so many older churches wee destroyed forever. It was saved due to the simple fact that the parish at the time was very small and poor and situated in an area where constant wars between Sweden and Denmark drew on the small reserves of the people. The people of Nöttja long felt ashamed of their old, ill-preserved church. It was not until the renovation in 1951 that they became awar
e of what a treasure their church was and still is. 


 Erik and Anna were married in this beautiful and historic church. All their six children were baptized there.  Within the church graveyard is a little gravestone marked Dahlin Barn {children] Three of Erik’s children were buried there in May 1884. All three died of Scarlet Fever. They included: Selma from the previous marriage, then age 12 and two young girls ages one and four.





Erik and Anna lived in a quaint little Nöttja bungalow until 1891 when they moved back to Ljungby.

During this period Erik either worked in, or owned and operated a small tannery. Erik’s and Anna’s  four surviving children; Emma born 1877, Werner 1878,Gunnar 1885 and Karl, their last child, born 1887 moved with them.


Ljungby- Powerbrokers “ If there were people making trouble or there was fighting at restaurants, bars, dancing places or in a Ljungby market, the police called in ‘ the Dahlin Boys’ [Werner and Gunnar] to help calm the people down.”  These were the comments made by Ingrid {Dahlin} Blixt as told to her by her father Gunnar and other family members. Both Werner and Gunnar were large strong men who were not to be trifled with.

The Dahlin’s moved back to Ljungby in 1891. During that time Ljungby was a market town for the surrounding villages. Ljungby’s origin dates to the Fourteenth century when it was an inn. A royal degree in 1335 prescribed the establishment of inns at strategic points throughout Sweden. The decree was established to facilitate traveling throughout this vast country with a small population. Ljungby was an ideal, location for such an inn because it was located on the main highway between the capital of Stockholm and the Danish border as well as an intersection where other roads met.

In 1828 Ljungby became a borough consisting of a church, the inn and five other farm buildings.

Ljungby’s first industry, a tannery was introduced in 1840 where local farmers could bring their hides for leather processing. A small tannery could be run outdoors with a simple building but as demand increased a large permanent building was built in about 1852. Erik Dahlin bought this tannery in 1891.

Erik surely planned to have his oldest son Gustaf to be a major part of his newly purchased business but Gustaf died at age 20 from consumption in February of 1990. This had to be a most disheartening time for Erik because Gustaf must have had several years of training as a tanner. To add to his grief, the memory of losing three children six years earlier had to be a heavy burden. Instead, Erik had to transfer his plans to his next oldest son Werner, then age12.

 The Dahlin family had to be major players in the community during both Erik’s and Werner’s tenure. The tannery was a key business in the community that also employed local people and the Dahlin’s had a fine home for the period.

Erik’s final years  Erik, during 1905 at age 64 turned over his business to his son Werner. At that date, his daughter Emma and son Gunnar were living with Anna’s brother in Jamestown New York. His youngest son, Karl, then 18, could likely have been working for his brother Werner in the tannery. However, Karl was drafted into the Swedish Navy in 1908 an immigrated to Jamestown, NY in 1910

Karl* it appears never returned to his home and Emma remained in the USA for the rest of her life. Gunnar, however had a different path. He returned to Ljungby for some time and his oldest son Karl Gunnar was born there in May of 1911. In 1912 Gunnar’s pregnant wife Edith and his son Karl Gunnar moved back to Jamestown; Gunnar followed at a later date. Gunnar and Edith had an infant daughter born January 14, 1913 in Jamestown but she only lived for a few hours. In 1916 Gunnar was back in Ljungby  where his daughter Ingrid was born on February 17. Gunnar and his family sometime during the period of 1916-1917 moved to Stockholm where he settled for most of his life.

Note: In the USA  Karl changed his name from Karl to Carl 

With the movement of Gunnar to Stockholm, the only direct family members of Erik and Anna in the Ljungby area was their son Werner and Werner’s adopted son Hilmer. The Ljungby household examination records for 1913-1927 show Werner and his wife Hulda living at Tomt 14 D ; which can be assumed to be the old Dahlin house next to the tannery. At the time of Erik’s death, Anna and he were living at Lungby Ekilsgård nr 2 that must have been a small apartment..

 A note on an the back of old faded photo of Erik and Anna written by Anna to her son Karl in the US indicates that she wanted Karl to know what his father looked like before he got sick and started to get swollen. She further mentions they visited Werner and his wife Hulda for a week and that Hilmer took the picture. Anna also mentions that Erik was sick for about two years before he died. A copy of this picture is shown that appears to show a large portrait of Anna on the wall of Werner’s apartment.

Erik died of arteriosclerosis December 28th 1923 just past his 82nd birthday. He was buried in the Ljungby churchyard. It was not a joyful holiday season that year.  

Erik’s Legacy    Travelers interested in Swedish history will be rewarded visiting the “Ljungby Old Market”[ Lungby Gamla Torg] complex. In this complex one will see an old restored tannery [garveriet]. Within this building there are pictures of Erik, his son Werner and a display of Erik’s other son Gunnar’s clock restoration business.

When Werner died in 1954 his will stated that the old Dahlin family home as well as the
tannery be given to the municipality of Ljungby. The home was destroyed but the old tannery was dismantled, stored and eventually moved across the road to the “Old Market” complex where it was re-erected and restored.



The old Dahlin home site was later developed into a small “People’s House”  [Folkets Hus]* Today it is the site of a large People’s House complex  called Garvaren where there is a cinema, restaurant, disco, store, hotel, highschool and office space.

Many wealthy men build mausoleums to help secure their legacy. Some men earn it as major historical figures. Erik, who was born very poor, leaves, as his legacy, and old tannery and a “People’s Place” for future generations to enjoy. 

*Folkets HusPeoples Palace

Folkets Hus ( “directly translated”) = People’s House.

The dictionary says Peoples Palace or People’s Community Centre


When the trade union and political wings of the labour movement began to organise themselves towards the end of the 19th century, there soon arose a great demand for premises - preferably premises of their own.

Opposition to these demands was strong and well organised and workers were not welcome to use existing premises. Landowners even forbade open-air meetings, as they were afraid of the revolutionary ideas that might be ventilated.

Workers in southern Sweden decided to buy up land to fence in and build houses on, and use for their meetings without interference. The idea spread all over the country. That the concept was realised so quickly was a significant step on the path towards equality and democracy. Construction was funded through co-operative ventures, bank loans, and various forms of contribution, guarantee associations and not least voluntary work.

1899 there were more than twenty People’s Palace Association ( Folkets Hus föreningar) in Sweden.

To finance the running of the People’s Palaces an amusements like dancing and theatre performances and later showing movies. Later even People’s Parks were started, where open-air-meetings, different amusement arrangement like music concerts, theatre, etc could be held.


The People’s Palace and People’s  Park Centers in Sweden are unique in the world. There are today 692 People’s Palaces and 146 People’s Parks with a total of 50 million visitors per year. People’s Palace and People’s Park in Sweden represent an important part of the social economic system.