No. 7 |
PAGE No. 3
Their Majesties’ Jubilee encourages one to indulge in
reminiscence - that is the only excuse we offer for what follows and in this spirit we would like to tell something of our
history and of the circumstances which have led us to our present position, after a journey lasting 55 years to the present time.
Like so many other large industrial ,concerns, the Ericsson s beginning was very small and passed unnoticed in a busy world. Its subsequent expansion has been rapid and extends to the five continents.
Lars Magnus Ericsson was born at a small village in central
Sweden on the 5th May, 1846. His parents were in very humble circumstances and his path was not smoothed by the death of his
father which forced him to seek work at the early age of twelve. Fortunately he was a lad of
great originality of thought and strength of character and what he lacked in the good
things of this world he sought to acquire by diligent work and spare-time study. At the
age of twenty he decided to try his fortune in Stockholm, where he secured work with a firm of instrument makers. Six years
close study, allied to his natural ability, secured for him a government scholarship
and enabled him to acquire wider experience and training. At 30 he laid the foundation
of the present world-wide Ericsson organisation. Somehow or other, he secured a capital of £55 (the present
capital of the Ericsson group of companies totals millions of pounds).
It is appropriate to comment here upon the act that the modern trend of telephone instrument design has been to revert to he hand-microphone, the original manufacturer being Lars Magnus Ericsson more than fifty years ago.
The National Telephone Company readily appreciated the sterling merits of the telephone equipment made by Ericsson and a steady flow of orders resulted. Compared with present day standards these were infinitesimal, nevertheless they were of great importance to Ericsson in those days. Mr. Dane Sinclair, who was at that time Engineer-in-Chief of the National Telephone Company and subsequently Chairman of British Insulated & Helsby Cables Ltd., visited Ericsson in order to examine the possibilities of securing a greater output of these coveted telephones and promised an order for 300 instruments if special efforts were made regarding delivery. An order of this magnitude had never before been dreamed of by Ericsson and it may be supposed that it caused him much thought and head-scratching. By utilising all his resources he was able to offer 10 per week; this however, didn’t suit Mr. Sinclair, who wanted no less than 50 per week. The result was a further extension of premises and plant. Events have shown that this order undoubtedly helped materially in the building up of the Ericsson concern, and since then millions of Ericsson telephones have been installed in all corners of the world.
Ericsson insisted upon a very high standard of workmanship from his employees. He personally inspected every piece of apparatus before it left the premises and woe betide the man who put an inferior piece of work before him. It has been said that this would cause him to fly into a temper, with the possibility of the offending article being thrown at the head of the defaulter. This may be an exaggeration, but the exacting demands made upon the employees laid the foundations of Ericsson’s business upon a solid basis, which succeeding generations of Ericsson men constantly endeavour to uphold. It is no platitude to say that the name Ericsson conveys to the telephone world a guarantee for an article reflecting both care and skill in its production.
By 1889 the Stockholm telephone factory had achieved an output of 20,000 telephone instruments and the total number of employees had increased to 96, including Ericsson himself.
In the early nineties, Ericsson directed his attention to the export markets and branches were opened in countries near to Sweden and later-on a chain of factories was built covering nearly every country in the old world.
In 1903, after 30 years incessant and fruitful labour, Ericsson withdrew from the
leadership of the great organisation he had founded and retired to an estate in the
country, where during the next 23 years he was afforded the great pleasure and privilege
of seeing the extraordinary expansion of the Ericsson organisation. This remarkable
and lovable man died in 1926, in his eightieth year, and by a strange coincidence
at the time the Company was celebrating the half-century of its existence.
At the suggestion of the National Telephone Company a new Company was incorporated in 1903 under the name The British L.M. Ericsson Manufacturing Co. Ltd. The Capital of this Company was equally subscribed by the National Telephone Company and by Ericssons.
The Beeston telephone works, employing at that time 130 people and covering one acre, were transferred to this Company. (Going back a little, it is interesting to recall that the first telephone exchange in Nottingham was opened in 1881 with two subscribers - it is safe to assume that "wrong number" or "number engaged" were phrases not then known in the district.)
Extensions to the Beeston works have subsequently been made at very frequent and regular intervals so that to-day about 15 acres are built upon and a further 8 acres are available for expansion. As extensions are at the moment being erected, it looks as though the remaining unoccupied land will not be more than the Company will require in the future.
As we have already mentioned, the business of the National Telephone Company was acquired by the State in 1912. This necessitated the repayment of their share holding in the British Ericsson Company, consequently the share capital of the Company was reconstructed. The capital was increased from £100,000 to £200,000 by a public issue of shares. The business continued to expand considerably and a Debenture issue of £100,000 was made a little later, while in 1926 it was again found necessary to increase the share capital, this time from £200,000 to £500,000 at which figure it still stands. At the same time permission was obtained to change the Company’s name to Ericsson Telephones Ltd.
When Shakespeare made one of his characters in Macbeth say “if you can look into the seeds of time and say which grain will grow and which will not, speak then to me,” he was voicing a wish that frequently occurs to each of us, but he knew, as we know, that the gratification of this desire would remove the zest from life. The journey is invariably more thrilling than the arrival. Ericsson did not realise that the seed he was planting in that back kitchen was destined to become an organisation giving employment to upwards of 12,000 people and even now the high water mark is yet to be reached. Saturation point in the demand for telephones is a long way off - in all countries of the world a considerably greater telephone density is urgently demanded and nowhere more than in the enterprising countries of the British Empire owning allegiance to their Majesties King George and Queen Mary.
Last revised: October 14, 2019