Shipping Company Gustaf Erikson Archives 1913-1947
Gustaf Erikson once owned the largest single sailing ship company in the Åland Islands, Finland, and the world. His archives describe activities which were global in scope and unique. It was said that a certain runner once ran Finland onto the map of the world. The significance of Gustaf Erikson in spreading information about the new republic of Finland and its autonomous region of Åland cannot be underestimated. Åland and Finland “ran forth”; they were noticed both on maps and in sea charts in foreign countries and in the continents of the Southern hemisphere, and this was due to Erikson's global business and comprehensive shipping company operations.
Gustaf Erikson came from a humble background. He attended school for four years as a child and went to sea when he was ten. He spent almost three decades at sea apart from the years he spent in marine schools in Maarianhamina, Oulu and Vaasa. Erikson finished his education to became second mate at the age of 20, and seven years later he became a sea captain. In 1913, he returned to the Åland Islands where he settled down to operate a shipping company.
During his career as a shipping company owner, he owned 46 sailing ships. He owned a total of 66 merchant ships between 1913 and 1947. The shipping company archives consist of a business archive which dates back to the founding of the shipping company in 1913 and ends with the death of Gustaf Eriksson in 1947.
To protect his shipping company operations financially, Gustaf Erikson founded separate shipping companies for most of the ships he owned, as was the usual rule. He was the sole share holder in these companies. In 1936, Erikson converted his shipping company into 25 separate companies to minimise the financial risks presented by economic circumstances and shipwrecks.
Because of this, the archive’s organisation uses a secondary provenance principle, which means that the format of the last organisation forms the name of the archives. This method can also be explained by the fact that founding these 25 companies was a simple technicality for Erikson. The archives clearly show that he led the operations of all the ships himself.
Gustaf Erikson’s ships sailed the world’s seas even in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s, when steam and motor ships had already taken over most ocean voyages. When Erikson died after World War II, sailing ships also practically disappeared from the ocean traffic. The Åland Maritime Museum has received part of the archives. Part of the archives is owned by Mariehamns Rederi Aktiebolag. The Åland Maritime Museum and the Provincial Archives of Åland signed a deposit agreement on 23 January, 1985.