Guitarist in Sweden by Fredrique Holmstedt

The young man in this carte-de-visite portrait is wearing a military-style tunic with an “F” on the collar.  The photograph was taken at the studio of Fredrique Holmstedt in Vadstena, Sweden.  I had difficulty finding information online about Fredrique.  Unable to read the handwritten dedication in Swedish in the upper left corner, I turned to fellow blogger Thérèse Amnéus and asked if she could help.  She wasn’t sure about the first line, but she said the second line is Frälst af nåd, or Saved by Grace:

Guitarist in Vadstena by Fredrique Holmstedt 4

Thérèse said she thought the young man might have been a member of the Salvation Army, because she had found a portrait online of two Salvation Army men posing with guitars in Åvik, Sweden.  (That photo was taken by Mia Ohlsson and you can see it here.)  Thérèse was right.  Salvation Army uniforms in Sweden have an “F” on the collar, because Salvation Army in Swedish is Frälsningsarmén.

Thérèse also found some information about Fredrique Holmstedt that I had missed.  She was born Fredrika Bernhardina Holmstedt in 1865 in Helsingborg, Sweden.  Her studio was located in Vadstena from 1892 until 1898, at which point she moved it to the town of Ödeshög.  In 1904 she married a man named Herman Sjöström and changed the name of the studio to Sjöströms Ateljéer.  In 1910 she and Herman moved to the town of Örkelljunga, where they lived until her death in 1922.  Remarkably, her camera and other photographic equipment have been preserved there.

Guitarist in Vadstena by Fredrique Holmstedt 2b


The carte-de-visite came to me from Washington State, where many immigrants from Scandinavia settled.  Did the earnest young man with the guitar immigrate to the United States?  Or was the photo brought over by the person he gave it to?  Interestingly, members of the Frälsningsarmén sometimes came to America specifically to work with Swedish immigrants here.  (See for example this portrait from Boston, Massachusetts, and the comments underneath it from readers.)

The Frälsningsarmén ended its mission in Vadstena in December 2008 and sold the historic building it had occupied there for 99 years.

Guitarist in Vadstena by Fredrique Holmstedt 3


44 thoughts on “Guitarist in Sweden by Fredrique Holmstedt

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    1. The strap looks really nice, probably made by someone close to him. I didn’t guess Salvation Army because he doesn’t have a badge or a hat on, but the guitar should have been a giveaway. I also should have found the information about Fredrique, but sometimes I get frustrated and give up too soon. 😜

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  1. What a great collaboration between you and Therese! An interesting story, as usual, from you Brad. I really recommend Therese’s blog for those fascinated by early photographs and their stories. (Sorry I can’t find the accents for the ‘e’s on my keyboard!)

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      1. Yes, very. He has a kind of glow to his eyes as well. Perhaps he did go to America like so many others in the late 1800s, beginning 1900s. It would be interesting to know what the first line on the card says – perhaps a name?

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      2. I enjoyed looking at your blog. My paternal grandparents came to the U.S. from Gävle (then, Gefle) in the early 1900s. Oddly, they came aboard the same ship, but didn’t meet until they both were living in Minneapolis, Minnesota. One of my most cherished possessions is a ceramic cheese board my grandmother brought with her. It’s typically blue and white, and has the name of Jric Jerstrom, Bosättningsaffär, Gefle, on it. I had a hard time finding precisely when Gefle was the name of the town, but finally postage stamps gave a clue. Dates from around 1905 made sense — that’s around the time my grandparents would have departed.

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      3. Thank you! Your paternal grandparents seem to have left Sweden around the same time my great grandparents did. In 1905, my great grandmother went to China and my great grandfather left the US around 1909 (he had emigrated from Sweden a few years earlier) for China as well. I think many Swedes found each other abroad, as they shared both culture and language. Gävle actually has an interesting story to it’s name. It’s been spelled in numerous different ways and the city council went through with the modern name of Gävle in the 1940’s. But as late as the 80’s the local paper (still called Gefle Dagblad) motioned to change back to the old form, but it didn’t go through. Did your grandparents speak Swedish with each other?

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      1. Interestingly, there’s one place such “carte de visites” still exist — among cruisers. It’s quite common for those anchored together in far-flung places to exchange such cards. Granted, they’re more like business cards, but they’re often a bit larger, with more information. Of course, the photo usually is of the boat!

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    1. The museum page I linked to with the photo of two men with guitars also has interesting information about the work of the Salvation Army in Sweden at that time. (The text is in Swedish, so l used Google Translate.) I’ve read in the past about the founding of the Salvation Army in England and the establishment of a branch in the USA. Some of the founders were women who took great personal risks in working with the poorest and most destitute members of society. They were very courageous.

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  2. I spotted that guitar strap immediately. It’s remarkably similar to the lace and crocheted trims for sheets and pillowcases my Swedish grandmother created while sitting on the porch with her friends. See my comment to Thérèse for a little more information about Grandma.

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  3. It was fascinating reading your well-researched post, Brad. Thanks to Thérèse. It brought me a sense of nostalgia. Many interesting stories will go unnoticed without your insightful posts.

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    1. Thank you so much, Isabelle. Your comments are always very encouraging! This post made me feel a little bit nostalgic as well. Initially my focus was on three things: the portrait itself, the fact that it was taken by a woman, and the possibility that the young man might have emigrated from Sweden to the United States. As I learned more about Fredrique (thanks to Thérèse) and then about the Salvation Army leaving Vadstena in 2008, the post began to feel more like a record of an era that had passed. The fact that Fredrique’s camera and equipment had been preserved, after her long and successful career, was a poignant element of the story for me. It showed that someone valued her memory enough to preserve the objects that were important to her.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes Brad, it’s great that Fredrique’s long career has been cherished and her story has become part of cultural heritage in Sweden. I’d also like to know the story behind the guitarist, a very handsome man with kind, gentle eyes – what kind of life he had lived in the States or Sweden. I have a fascination for the past. I love nostalgia. If I were to have a time machine, I’d love to travel back to the Victorian Era and live there for a while 😊

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