John Ericson-mausoleet. Enligt John Ericsons önskan begravdes han på Östra Kyrkogården i Filipstad. Foto Sara Virkki Björnberg.

From Filipstad to Philadelphia – The story of the Ericson brothers

The brothers fro Filipstad were behind inventions and buildings such as the propeller, Säffle Canal and Slussen. Their memory lives on in a number of places in Filipstad - both below and above ground.

If you have ever passed the main entrance to Stockholm Central Station or travelled by bus to Gothenburg Bus Terminal you will have encountered the man from Värmland, Nils Ericson. There is of course a statue of him outside of the Central Station and the bus terminal is named after him.

The brothers Nils and John Ericson

Nils Ericson together with his one year younger brother John Ericson are one of Värmland’s greatest historical profiles within innovation and engineering. The brothers, who were born in 1802 and 1803 respectively, grew up and worked in Filipstad and were the instigators of both new ideas and new technology.

Nils Ericson was put in charge of hydraulic engineering at places including Säffle and Karlstad. He had a great passion for his work within water transport and when the construction of the railway in Sweden began in the mid nineteenth century he also became involved in land transport. Nils was soon given a leading role in the planning of the country’s main railway lines. Even Stockholm enjoyed his knowledge of infrastructure when he was involved in the rebuilding of both Slussen and Skeppsbrokajen.

Great interest in technology

An interest in technology and physics running in the family is clear to see if we take a glance at his brother John’s CV. Here there are, among many other things, titles as the inventor of the hot air machine and the world-famous iron-clad warship USS Monitor, which was decisive in the American Civil War. His greatest claim to fame is probably the fact that he was one of the inventors behind the propeller. When the American ship Princeton used John Ericson’s propeller in a competition against a steamship with paddle wheels and won the competition, the propeller achieved international acclaim.  There is a statue of John Ericson in New York and he has a monument in his honour in Philadelphia.

The work of the Ericson brothers has had great significance for Filipstad, Värmland and Sweden. Each year a scholarship is given out by the Municipality of Filipstad in the name of the brothers and each summer a reconstruction of the Battle of Hampton Roads is enacted in Filipstad where the spectators can see genuine canons and ships firing at each other. This is juts one of the many ways that they are today honoured in their home county.

Three destinations with connections to the Ericson brothers:

  • The John Ericson Mausoleum  According to his wishes, John Ericson was buried in Östra Kyrkogården in Filipstad. Here stands an impressive monument of Filipstad granite, Uddevalla granite and Kolmård marble. The monument is seven metres high and a propeller is tilted against the coffin, as a symbol of John Ericson's most famous invention
  • The mines in the Persberg area. The mines in Persberg, Nordmark and Långban have played a major role for Värmland and Bergslagen since the Middle Ages. Today the old mining communities are exciting tourist attractions with a genuine history.
  • Långban Museum. The Långban mining and cultural town is part of Värmland Museum where, among other things, you can follow the work of John Ericson in constructing the world’s first iron-clad ship with a movable gun turret. If you get hungry during your visit you can have a bit to eat in Anna Karolina’s Kitchen located on the John Ericson estate and when you need to rest your legs, just hang out at the charming cinema that breathes the 1950s and nostalgia.


John and Nils Ericsson were born in the mining community of Långban in the Municipality of Filipstad. Disponentgården, where they gre up, is preserved to this very day, as are a number of other buildings from the mining era. Be sure to walk among the cowslips and orchids and enjoy the beautiful surroundings of the Tibers udde nature reserve. 

Text: Fridah Jönsson