A 'Swenglish' journey through family photos, notes and postcards from the early 20th century.


Sepia Saturday: Steamers

“You might want to go with boats, water, steamers, piers or writing on photographs : or you might want to paddle your photographic boat in an entirely different direction. This is Sepia Saturday, the choice is yours.”

Gerdas 02.5-001

My contribution to this week’s Sepia Saturday is another old photo from my great-aunt Gerda’s album from the early 1900s. (It is a photograph, 110x65 mm; not a postcard.)

When first looking at this, I had no idea from what town it was (there are no notes in the album) but looking closely through a magifying glass at the steam boat in the middle, the name on it seems to be Harald Ericson. The name seems Swedish, so I tried Swedish Wikipedia…

… I found an architect Harald Ericson (1890-1972). He studied at the Royal Technical Institute in Stockholm where he got his degree in 1915. Coincidentally or not – he was later employed as town architect in Borås (where I live) between 1929-1955.  Whether he ever had anything to do with steamboats I don’t know, though. Probably not. Harald Ericson is hardly a unique name. …

However, it made me think that it was also likely to be a Swedish harbour. I tried googling images of Göteborgs hamn, Gothenburg harbour… And no doubt:

(From http://www.landgangen.se)

Further research also told me this was the quay for the ships sailing (or steaming!) to America.

Gerda and her brother Gustaf emigrated in 1902. I’m not sure if they went together on the same ship, or separately. I have reason to believe Gustaf may have travelled via Oslo, Norway. Possibly Gerda may have gone from Gothenburg, but I don’t know. (Maybe some day I’ll find out.)

File:Farewell to home, Göteborg, 1905.jpg

Photo from Wikipedia article Swedish Emigration to the United States. The text reads: (100)-899- Farewell to home – emigrants bound for England and America – on steamer at Göteborg, Sweden. Copyright 1905 by Underwood & Underwood.

I doubt the photo in Gerda’s album is as early as from her own emigration. She travelled to America again, though, more than once. The photo from Gothenburg harbour may not necessarily be from any of those occasions. It could have been sent to her by someone, or she might just have been visiting Gothenburg. But the reason why the photo is in her album is still probably to remind her of her own travels.

På svenska

Temat för veckans Sepia Saturday 167 är vatten och båtar. Mitt val föll på ännu ett foto från Gerdas album. Hamnen kändes inte bekant för mig när jag först såg det här fotot. När jag tittade närmare, kunde jag dock utläsa namnet Harald Ericson på båten i förgrunden. Wikipedia har en kort artikel om en arkitekt med det namet – som, intressant nog, blev Borås första heltidsanställda stadsarkitekt 1929. Om han har något att göra med båten är kanske tveksamt, men hur som helst tydde namnet på en svensk hamn.

Bildsökning på Göteborgs hamn gav snabb bekräftelse – ingen tvekan. Det är kajen där de stora Amerikabåtarna gick. Svenska Amerikalinjen grundades dock inte förrän 1915. Gerda och Gustaf emigrerade redan 1902 (och var t.o.m hemma i Sverige igen före 1915). Jag vet fortfarande inte om de reste tillsammans eller var för sig (jag lutar åt det senare). En dikt som farfar skrev till Gustafs 50-årsdag långt senare tyder på att Gustaf reste från Oslo. Gerda kan eventuellt ha farit från Göteborg men det vet jag inte. (Kanske kan jag lista ut det så småningom.)

Fotot är väl hur som helst knappast så tidigt som från 1902. Gerda åkte till Amerika fler gånger, både 20- och 30-talet och kanske senare också. Hamnfotot behöver inte heller vara från någon av hennes egna resor. Kanske fick hon det skickat till sig (det är dock ett foto, inte ett vykort). Kanske var hon bara på besök i Göteborg. Att kortet sitter i hennes fotoalbum har troligen ändå att göra med minnen från hennes egna resor.


  1. I thought it may be Boulogne when I first spotted the monument. It has a similar monument with Napoleon looking across the channel to England longingly, but he never made it! But now I know its Gothenburg I have discovered it is the The Fisherman's Wife tower.

  2. What an excellent post rich in history and your photos are perfect.

  3. I'm sure the Harald Ericson must be a tugboat, and I agree with you, that photo must be from quite a bit later than 1902. Excellent sleuthing to discover the location.

  4. Thanks Nigel for that additional piece of info. I feel like I should have recognized where it was from, as Gothenburg is not very far from where I live; but the fact is I only know some parts of the city and I don't think I've been anywhere near the harbour since my teens (and even then probably never saw it from this angle).

  5. I think I may have use that Swedish emigrant picture before, Glad you tracked Gothenburg down - it's always satisfying to do that,

  6. What A Busy & Industrious Place Göteborgs Hamn Was. And The View Was Bound To Evoke For Gerda Her Own Personal Journey .

  7. I doubt many people today save a photo or postcard of the airport where they start a great adventure. Harbors and ships are a reminder about how travel in Gerda's time was important to remember. Bravo on the detective work.

  8. Great scenes of a very busy harbour. I enjoyed reading about your detective work.

  9. At first I thought it was Grimsby! And then I read your post and kicked myself for not recognising it as I sailed into Goteborg about 12 years ago and my ship docked at almost the same spot. Great post, thanks.

  10. Thanks to all for your comments. Alan, my own thoughts did not go first to a harbour so close to home either, as I knew that Gerda travelled a lot abroad!

  11. Well done for finding the name in that great old photo. I like the emigration picture too.

  12. They show the river as a vibrant environment, with all manner of comings and goings. I sailed from the Port of London in the early 1960s, and the River and Docksides were dirty, scruffy but absolutely fascinating, now it is all sanitised. Working people have been priced out of the housing market as the area as become gentrified. And, they cannot even get on Boats to emigrate any more.