Keysmithing by the Domneån River falls

An article on the industrial history of Bankeryd and Jönköping



This is not just an account of machines and tools, but a tale of how people who, safe in the knowledge and skills of their craft, had the courage to take huge financial risks.

It began with a couple of optimistic master blacksmiths, who left the secure working conditions of rifle factory Husqvarna Faktori, assembled a band of skilled craftsmen and built their own little industrial community. They lived close to each other, felt a strong sense of togetherness and took great care of their fellows and the work they did. The remains of the factory by the Domneån river are today an important part of the cultural heritage of Bankeryd and Habo – small communities just northwest of Jönköping in the province of Småland.

The Domneån river blacksmiths made a living for themselves and their families by periodically acting as subcontractors to large companies, and by designing and forging keys, scissors, bicycle parts, steel combs, meat grinder blades, bridle bits and other metal items. These apparently rudimentary objects started to become more widespread in the second half of the 19th century with the arrival of shops and the retail trade and, in particular, the freedom of trade ordinance of 1864. Similarly, at the end of the century, mail-order companies boosted the demand for the simple utility goods for which small family businesses in Småland had become so renowned.

The Carl Gustaf workshops, 1836. Woodcut from a drawing by R. Haglund in Ny Illustrerad Tidning, 1869.