John Erlander

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John Erlander (April 7, 1826 - February 14, 1917) was a Swedish born, American businessman and founder of Rockford Union Furniture Company.


John Erlander was born Johan Jönsson, in Slätthög, Kronoberg County in Småland, Sweden. His father, Jöns Petterson, was a carpenter. Erlander emigrated to the United States in April, 1854 with his sister Kajsa Jönsdotter, and his brother Peter Magnus Jönsson.


John Erlander first settled in Chicago where he learned to operate a sewing machine. In 1855 he moved to Rockford, Illinois where he worked as a tailor. In 1861, he entered into a partnership with Sven August Johnson. They open a successful tailoring and men's clothing shop. The partners remained in business until 1885 when Erlander sold his half of the business to Johnson.

Erlander was a lay delegate to the meeting at Jefferson Prairie Settlement during June 1860 at which the Augustana Evangelical Lutheran Church was organized. He would live to be the last surviving member at that historic meeting.[1]

Rockford Union Furniture Company was organized in 1876. Erlander was elected President. Jonas Peters, Erlander's brother-in-law, served as Treasurer/Manager, and Pehr August Peterson was elected company Secretary. Rockford Union Furniture Company was a cooperative association with members helping to raise the initial capital for the business. It was the first of 25 area furniture factories that were formed as cooperatives.[2]

John Erlander was involved in several other business ventures and provided leadership in the Rockford community. He served on the boards of the Excelsior Furniture Company, Central Furniture Company and Rockford Brick Company. He was also one of the primary organizers of the Swedish Mutual Fire Insurance Company and was a stockholder in Manufacturer's National Bank.[3]

Erlander Home Museum[edit]

John Erlander built a 14-room home in 1871. The house was situated in the Haight Village historic district of Rockford. It is now the headquarters of the Swedish Historical Society of Rockford.[4]

Personal life[edit]

Erlander has been married twice. His first wife, whom he married December 24, 1855, was Stina Kajsa Pettersdotter, a fellow immigrant from Småland, Sweden. Following her death, he married her sister, Ingrid Stina Pettersdotter on December 12, 1857. One son was born in the first marriage, and five sons and two daughters were born in the second.


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