(Editorial Note: I have been familiar with Louis Liljedahl for several years, and met him at the show in Kulmbach 2015. I met some of his friends from Sweden and learned some things about the flat tin figures in that part of the world. I asked him if he would write something about the world of Flats in Sweden for the website, and here it is. Thanks, Louis! I highly recommend you check out his website as well: http://www.louis-liljedahl.se)
My father and his father before him, and probably his father, played with tin solders as little boys. I also played with small figures when I
grew up in the mid 1950s, but the metal was by then replaced by plastic. Besides I never liked modern warfare but had my beloved Indians and cowboys dear instead. As an adult, however, I found the little figures of tin, and a new world opened up for me. Today after more than 40 years in the business of collecting, painting and writing about tin figures, the flat minute character enriches my senior life.
The first tin figures in Sweden were made in the 1790s. However it was not until the end of the 1800s that an industrial production commenced. The figures were engraved in slate and brass moulds and in the beginning of the 1900s some of the most skilled German engravers were engaged, like Ludwig Frank and Gustav Maier. Thus early Swedish tin soldiers belonged to the best figures made even seen from an international point of view.
In the 1920s tin solders began to lose its place as the favorite toys for boys, and thus the tin figure producing companies were closing one by one. By the 1930s most of them were out of business, but the tin soldier now appeared in a new shape – the tin figure!
The Oldest and also biggest tin casting company was owned by the Santesson family. It was established 1839 by Nils Santesson in Stockholm. After him his son Frans and after him his son Nils-Erik continued the business till 1906. The name was altered from “Frans Santessons Fabrik För Tennleksaker” (Frans Santesson’s factory for tin toys) to “AB Gamla Santessonska Tenngjuteriet” (Old Santesson’s tin casting Ltd). In the year 1916 it went bankruptcy but was in business again in 1921.At that time Ferdinand Holmberg and his accouter Maria Björk directed the company. In 1922 the name was changed to Gamla Tenngjuteriet Holmberg & Björk. The company had their own engraver, the German Gustav Maier, who made most of the Santesson figures. They were semi-round 45-mm and flats 30-mm. Some 600-700 moulds were produced.
C.C. Ohlssons Leksaksfabrik
“C.C. Ohlssons Leksaksfabrik” was founded about 1894 by Cora Cemona Ohlsson and the German Johan Felberthann. They produced toys made of tin-plate, actually in their home apartment in Stockholm. The factory name C.C. Ohlsson was derived from Cora Cemona Ohlsson.
In the year 1930 the business was taken over by Karl Jönsson with Cora Ohlsson as head of the factory, which in turn was bought by Curt Wennberg in 1933. The plant moved to Tidaholm, Småland 1935. Already after a year the company returned to Stockholm under the name “C.C. Ohlssons Efterträdare” (C.C. Ohlsson’s successor). The company bought the moulds from Germany and the number of moulds was about 350, giving a variety of sizes and styles of tin figures. In connection with the war outbreak in 1939, the plant was closed.
“C. G. Öhrström” in Ystad produced semi-round tin soldiers 1895-1914. They were of different sizes and depicted Swedish contemporary soldiers of various kinds
”Tenngjuteriet Mars” was founded in 1915 by Oscar Stark, Stockholm, even though his wife was the real owner. In the year of 1929 the head of the factory, Nils Lindbergh, took over the business. He continued the production till 1935, when the moulds were bought by the company “Uno A. Riese & CO AB” which, however, already went bankruptcy 1937.
The company hired the German master engravers Ludwig Frank and Sixtus Maier The Older. Although Frank made many drawings, also the Swedes John Sjösvärd, Ossian Elgström and the Dane Knut Jenssen, were active artists. Thus the quality of the figures, both figuratively, proportionally and historically, was excellent. Some 550 moulds were produced between the years 1915-1921. Highlights of the production was historical and ethnographical series in 45-mm.
Sven Wentzel started a shop, ”Wentzels Modellplansfabrik” (Wentzel’s model plane factory) in Stockholm 1934. The only merchandise they offered was a model plane and the business was a little slow at first. The following year the merchandise was extended. In the beginning of the 50s tin figures, mainly engraved by the German professor George W. Rössner, were included in the offering.
In modern times Thorild Siwhed, Trelleborg, was a productive editor of mostly 30-mm flats. Above all the period of the Thirty Years’ War and the era of Charles XII of Sweden (Carolines) made up most of the production. He also edited a big series of the Swedish king Gustav Vasa who lived in the 1500s. Today the moulds are owned by editor Johan Lilliehöök, Åkersberga (Stockholm).
Hans G. Hagströms Tennfigurskabinett
Hans G. Hagström, owner of “Hans G. Hagströms Tennfigurskabinett”, is out of business, but still possesses moulds for 30-mm flats depicting Carolines and Russians as well as Prussians for the Seven Year War 1756-63. He also has 40-mm semi-round figures of circus and farming.
Bernt Grimm, Gimsbärke outside Borlänge, Dalarna, owns the moulds of about 200 figures of the former Mars Company and a smaller number of moulds from Santesson.
Zinnfiguren Offizin Johan Lilliehöök
“Zinnfiguren Offizin Johan Lilliehöök” now owns the moulds from Sivhed and some moulds of Ivanov. He also has his own edition of figures, chiefly Carolines and Russians of the Great Nordic War 1700-1721 and the war between Sweden and Russia 1809. He makes his own drawings and engravings in slate stone, but also hires artists and engravers from Germany, Austria and Russia.
Thanks to Henrik Moberg and Christina Wulff for providing most of the historical information, and to Hans G. Hagström for using of his photographs.
The photos below are figures painted by Louis Liljedahl:
Jan Sennebo is a highly respected painter and friend of Louis’. The photo gallery below is of Jan’s work: