Behind the Victory Flagpole – The Swedish recycler

I don’t know how many of my faithful readers to this column remember the article written in March of 2014 called “The Recycler.” It was all about the making of Compo Board at the C.A. Smith Lumber Co. in 1893.

Well, a man living in Sweden by the name of Bo Jansson found my article over the Internet in July of 2016 and had written to me telling how the Minneapolis company branched off to a Swedish company in 1896, and was named the “Swedish Compo Board Company.”

I would like to share his letter with you. This is what he wrote:

“Hi! My name is Bo Jansson. I am voluntary working in a local heritage center in Forserum, a town situated in the middle of south Sweden, 15 miles east of Jonkoping. At the center (a homestead park) we have a small museum with an exhibition around 150 years of industrial businesses in the municipality that was founded in 1864 when the railroad was built (Nassjo-Falkoping). There have been around a hundred different industrial companies in the town–large and very small–and it is still a vivid industrial workplace. One of those hundred enterprises is the Swedish Compo Board Company, established in 1896. The company was founded in Minneapolis (North Western Compo Board Co.) and we have found information about the company history on your website. We have taken the liberty of copying a translated article by Barbara Meyer Bistodeau (“The Recycler” or in Swedish — “Atervinnaren”) and we have used a picture of the company head office at Lyndale Avenue N. (see enclosed picture of the exposition!) As you can see we have two saved pieces of the board, one with the companies’ brand mark on.

Writing to you, I want to inform you about this, and bring you some facts about the company history in Sweden. I believe that this information can contribute to your local history. “Svenska Compo Board Aktiebolaget” is founded in 1896. A Swedish immigrant–Sven Alexandersson–gets the assignment to go to Sweden and establish the company by Charles Axel Smith, the founder and part owner of the North Western Compo Board Co. and the C.A. Smith Lumber Co. in Minneapolis. Smith was also an immigrant from Sweden. Born in Boxholm, a town 50 miles north of Forserum. Alexandersson found a suitable building site here in Forserum, close to the railroad station, where a big lathe industry had been destroyed by a fire a year earlier. Here he raised a factory for production of Compo Boards. As production manager, Geo. S. Mayhew was called in. He was, as far as we know, the inventor of the Compo Board. His name was not so easy to pronounce for the Swedes, so in Forserum he was known under the name “Meo.” He built a family house that the town referred to as the “Meo-Villa.” He also obtained Swedish patent for a black board and for production machineries.

Production starts in 1897 when the factory building and the machinery was finished. Managing director was O.F. Oberg, who opened up trade offices in several cities around Sweden and in Norway, and made extensive measures for sales promotion. It was a tough market and this modernity was hard to introduce. In 1901 the company runs at a loss. But it had 70 employees and the management was of good hope for a prosperous future.

Unfortunately, on December 29, 1901, the sawmill at the factory took fire. The whole plant was burned down. Although the company was well insured they decide not to rebuild the plant. The company was closed down. So, Compo Board history in Sweden became short. Still it had a big impact locally. The fire that burned down the turning-mill in 1895 had put around 450 employees out of work. The industry was rebuilt, but the staff was reduced to around 200. Compo Board Co. came as a rescuer and gave new hope to the town. And the ambitious marketing campaign put Forserum on the map all around Sweden, which the rest of the industries in town could benefit from. And we think that there are still several walls in the houses of the town where a Compo Board is hidden behind layers of insulation and wallpapers!

During the years the factory site has been occupied by a second turning-mill, and then a company producing doors and prefabricated houses. Today you can find a wholesaler in wooden goods, particularly boards of today, and a U.S.-owned door producer Jeld-Wen (global headquarters in Klamath Falls, Oregon), a proceeder to the earlier door factory.

I hope this information will find an interested receiver. If you who read this ever come to Sweden, you are most welcome to visit our small museum. Are there further questions or if you want to comment, please send me a mail on this address.”

Kindly regards,

Bo Jansson, Villagatan 11

S-571 77 Forserum Sweden

046 38021222 046761391965