[1855–1881 Manuscript Account Book owned by Swedish-American, carpenter and cabinetmaker, Olof Peter Ahlgren in Sweden and Chicago].
This densely written account book spans twenty five years of one immigrants life as he moves from Sweden to Chicago in the mid to later 19th century. Olof Peter Ahlgren’s book is divided into income on one side and, and inverted, with expenses. We speculate that Ahlgren began his account book in Sweden and then continued with it once in America. The entries are in Swedish with some English names as Ahlgren moves to the United States.
Biographical history reveals, in the 1876 Lakeside Annual Directory of the City of Chicago, Olof Peter Ahlgren (1823-1906) is listed as a carpenter at the rear of 90 Front Street in Chicago. The 1880 US Federal Census lists Olof’s occupation as a cabinet maker. He lives with his wife Bingta (1826–?) and the couple board a plumber. Two next door neighbors are also cabinet makers, one from Sweden, the other Germany. One of Ahlgren’s children, Olof H. Ahlgren (1851–1917) emigrated to America in 1871. He became a Chicago grocer and tea merchant and later a proprietor of the Hotel Stockholm at 52–56 East Chicago Avenue. From his son’s biography, we also learn that Olof Peter Ahlgren was a farmer, parish school master, and legal counselor in Sweden. We see numerous entries in the account book for school books, and possibly for bookbinding.
By 1880 we see entries for making bureaus, show cases, cornices, putting marble tops on tables, and cabinetry and carpentry. It also appears as if Ahlgren’s wife took in some money as a washerwoman. The expenses are dense and numerous, including family grocery lists. One loose manuscript statement is dated 1879 from Chicago and details work done for Mr. Alex. Philips, this includes: “sorting lumber for the backs; packing the two big looking glass; join, glo, and rib two bottoms; putting marble tops on tables; one partition by Hubbard; finished 50 showcases.” Another brief bill is for 1877, from Chicago for a Mr. H. Badelsen & Co. The printed and manuscript Chicago based billheads and receipts, indicate the Ahlgrens were settled in Chicago by the mid-1870s. Also of note is a 12 page letter (in Swedish), by Ahlgren written from Chicago in 1886, to a son, Johannes Samuel.
A primary source document worthy of further study to determine the Swedish text within.
Description: [1855–1881 Manuscript Account Book owned by Swedish-American, carpenter and cabinetmaker, Olof Peter Ahlgren in Sweden and Chicago].
[Sweden & Chicago: 1855–1881]. About 185 manuscript pages. Narrow folio. 13½ x 4 inches. Calf-backed spine, marbled boards. Densely written in Swedish in black and violet purple ink. Very Good condition. Items many in English found loose inside: a 12 page letter (this is in Swedish); billheads; receipts; notes; partly-printed form; trade card, etc.
Ref. Olson, The Swedish element in Illinois… (Chicago, 1917), p. 503.