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Johan Theofron Munktell

Johan Theofron Munktell was born on the 20th of march 1805. At the time his father was a priest in the Kärrbo parish in Västmanland county and later became a vicar in Irsta. He wrote very detailed diaries that were later published, making his sons childhood well known. The family had a qualified past in mining with a connection to Stora Kopparberg.

Johan Theofron, who early on showed an aptitude for technics, came to Stockholm at 18 years of age, where he became a student to the mining councilor Gustav Broling. To get by financially, he produced and sold sliderules from boxwood and steel pens. After a few years of internship, in 1826, he became foremen at the national coin factory, where he – often on his own – modernized the entire coin machinery. In his spare time, he also made Sweden’s first printing press for Lars Johan Hierta at Aftonbladet.

In 1832, the city of Eskilstuna gave him the mission to create a mechanical workshop. The workshop started up in October the same year with only a few employees in pre-rented facilities at the corner of what is today Drottninggatan and Rademachergatan. As early as in 1839 he moved his establishment to his own facilities on the other side of the river. He also had to educate mechanics as the majority of his workforce were craftsmen. At night and on Sundays he started educating talented younglings in linear drawing and geometry. With that, he laid the foundation for the regional technical education that later developed from Sunday- and nightschool, through the Technical gymnasium, to what is today the engineering education at university level.

In 1835 he went on a businesstrip to England where he met John Ericsson and also George and Robert Stephenson. They provided him with both the knowledge and incentive to manufacture locomotives. However, upon arrival back in Sweden, a huge project awaited that took all his time and required heavily increased resources, namely to modernize the entire machinery at Carl Gustafs rifle factory. Consequently, the company became a big manufacturer of tooling machines such as lathes, drills, forging presses and sanders. He could also sell these to other customers which contributed to the uprising of the swedish mechanical workshop industry. Since the production of steam-engines, locomobiles and locomotives began in the middle of the 19th century, a brand new organization and new equipment was required within the production.

Even though the machines were used to an increasing extent, a large part of the work was still done manually through forging, filing and grinding. An own foundry wasn’t built till 1860.

Another thing that caused concern as the products became larger and heavier were the transportation to customer. The Eskilstuna river had stopped being available for boat traffic a long time ago. Thus, Munktell had the canal between Torshälla and Eskilstuna restored and built new floodgates that allowed, what was at the time, big freighter ships to go all the way from Mälaren up to the workshops own loading docks. The Parliament assigned 100 000 swedish kroner for the construction, but Munktell had to add more than that amount from his own pocket to finish the work.

Johan Theofron Munktell had a pure way of living and strongly disliked the workers relentless habit of getting drunk, both at work and at home. To curb the abuse of liquor, he founded a brewery for the manufacturing and distribution of beer. Thereby, he is said to be one of the few people in the country to have increased sobriety by freely handing out beer. He was a warm human that cared about his employees even though he controlled his company with a firm hand in a patriarchal way.

During his time,” Arbetarnas Sjuk- & Begrafvnings Cassa” was instated, which is probably the oldest, still active, insurance fund in the country.

Munktell developed his company to one of the country’s largest. He controlled it far into his old days. The business was transformed into an incorporated company in 1879 when his son took over the post as company manager and his niece became workshop manager. However, Johan Theofron was active daily in the factory up to his passing on the 4th of July 1887.