Etikettarkiv: Sparre

The First Real Flying Reindeer!

The first real flying reindeer?

A reindeer flying over Stockholm in 1851? Seriously?

Yes, it happened.

I was rereading Augusta’s diary entry about her outing on 18 June 1851 to watch the first balloon ride in Stockholm.

On Wednesday we walked to Skeppsbron to, if possible, take a boat over to Djurgården, where an Italian intended to ascend by an air balloon, but seeing the dense crowd along the pier, we realized that it would be impossible to get to our destination that way. Erik, therefore, borrowed a boat from a captain, but it was so full of water that Nanna and I had to stand on a board with the danger of at any moment losing our balance and falling overboard.

Arriving at our destination, we chose a hill from where we could best see the balloon and happened upon the company of the Crown Princess, Princess Eugenie, and Prince August, who had come on foot from Rosendahl, and the Crown Prince on horseback and a whole host of court ladies and cavaliers, all packed with the rest of the crowd and with their eyes following the ever-rising balloon.

After we had had a cup of tea at Davidsons and avoided a shower, we went home in an omnibus. (Augusta’s Diary, Stockholm, June 1851)

So here was Augusta, seeing for the first time an air balloon. But all she wrote about were the crowds, the uncomfortable boat ride, and the royal family. And that it rained. Nothing about the balloon or how it would be to fly over Stockholm.

I decided to find out a little more about the event.

The Italian aeronaut: Guiseppe (Joseph) Tardini

Tardini came to Stockholm in the summer of 1851. On 18 June, he was to give a performance that no citizen of Stockholm had ever seen. He would fill his 12.5-meter wide balloon, named Samson, with hydrogen gas and soar into the sky. Cannons would be fired and a military band would give a concert.

The flight was a success according to the next day’s papers. It had been a magnificent show. The stately balloon had quickly soared and the sailor, dressed in a picturesque sailors outfit, had climbed up from the gondola, waving a red and white flag to the crowd below. The balloon had sailed high over the waters and then disappeared into a rain cloud. The balloon had then successfully touched down at Hornstull.

Tardini made 4 more flights in Stockholm and asked for volunteers to accompany him. During two of those, Per Ambjörn Sparre volunteered. He was an adventurer and an inventor, having given up on his medical studies. His brother, Count Erik Sparre, would marry Augusta’s best friend and relative, Hanna Schubert later that summer. Augusta mentioned in her diary that Per Ambjörn was at the wedding – I wonder if she asked him about his balloon ride?

Someone must have had a crazy idea!

On the 27 July 1851, Tardini was going to make his last flight in Stockholm. But why ride in a gondola under the balloon if you could do something more spectacular? Someone must have had a crazy idea because Tardini announced that he would be standing on a live reindeer which would be tied to the balloon!

Tardini standing on a reindeer

How would a reindeer react if it was tied to a huge balloon being filled up with gas! And with a military brass band playing a march specifically composed for the occasion! I assume any animal would freak out!

And why a reindeer? I had to look up the history of flying reindeers to see if I had missed something. The first reference to a flying reindeer was an illustrated Christmas poem in 1821.  But was that what Tardini had in mind? And who provided the reindeer?

Nevertheless, the flight actually took place and was described in the papers the following day.

Stockholms Dagblad, 26 July 1851

Everything went as planned with Tardini standing on the reindeer and taking off from Humlegården. There was only a slight breeze and the balloon sailed away towards Lidingö. Then the wind changed direction and the balloon changed its course towards Värmdö where it finally landed. The captain on a passing steamboat volunteered to take them back to Stockholm but Tardini, who had to take care of the balloon, asked if the captain could just take the reindeer. The reindeer, which was unharmed, was led onboard. The day ended with a huge display of fireworks in Humlegården (hopefully, the reindeer didn’t have to witness that as well).

So there it is; the first real flying reindeer.

Augusta’s friend: Adèle Peyron

The view of Klara Church from the location of Mrs Edgren’s school
Adele with her two daughters in 1860. Adele is 29 years old in the picture.

It’s already August, but what a fun summer Kerstin and I have had. First, we visited places where our great-great-grandmother, Augusta Söderholm, had played as a kid or visited as a young woman, then we spent a night on a steam-engine ship, and then we traveled by both steam ships and steam trains. Back in Stockholm, we visited the city archives to find out more about Augusta’s school in Stockholm. Finally, one of the highlights of the summer was our participation in the activities at Torekällberget, a living-history museum in Södertälje. We now have lots of materials for future blogs!

But right now, I am on a mission to find Augusta’s school friends. I have slowly been going through the correspondence between Augusta and her best friend, Lotten Westman, and trying to put faces to the names mentioned.

”Stockholm 16 April 1846

My own Augusta!

Thank you, thank you, for your latest and, for so long, an anticipated letter which was dearly received.

… Yesterday, I was visiting Mademoiselle Frigel and she always asks about you and she sent you her warmest regards. Adèle Peyron also sent you lots of greetings. Erica Degermann and I are invited to Mademoiselle Frigel on a graduation ball on Tuesday…”

Adèle Peyron

So, who was her friend, Adèle Peyron (or Peijron)?

Census record in 1843. Girls boarding with Mrs Edgren, including Augusta and Adele.

Her full name was Adèlaide Virginia Peyron and she was born 13 June 1831 in Stockholm – so she was 4 years younger than Augusta. Adèle, Augusta, and 3 other girls all boarded with their teacher, Mrs. Edgren, and her husband in their house on Stora Wattugränd 12 in Stockholm. Kerstin and I visited the place where their house once stood, just behind Klara Church. Now it is an office building clad in steel.

Did the girls share beds? It was very common in the 1800s. It was also a way to keep warm in the winter. I assume they would have become very close, just like sisters.

So what happened to Adèle?

She married chamberlain Gabriel Gerhard Sigge Sparre af Rossvik in 1853 and had 2 sons and 2 daughters. But her life was marred by a tragedy.

”Sad Things Still Happen”

That is the title and the first words of a ballad we sang in Sweden as kids. It tells the sad love story of the nobleman and lieutenant, Sixten Sparre (who was already married and had 2 children), and a famous Danish circus artist, Elvira Madigan. Desperately in love, they decided to run away to Denmark. Having no means to support themselves and no one coming to their rescue, they then planned to commit suicide – a romantic last picnic before Sixten shot Elvira and then himself.

Movie poster for the film Elvira Madigan, 1967.

The news were all over the papers in the summer of 1889. And the ballad about Elvira Madigan became famous throughout Sweden through “Skilling Prints” – inexpensive prints of song texts. And 100 years later, the ballad is still famous. Not to mention an award-winning movie made in 1967.

Adèle Peyron and Sixten Sparre

Augusta’s friend, Adèle, was Sixten’s mother.

In 1844, when Adèle and Augusta were both listed as living in the Edgren household, Adèle was only 12 years old. They were learning German and French together, doing their embroideries, and going to children’s balls. She could never have imagined the events that were going to affect her family, nor the shock and sorrow she would experience on receiving the news about her son.

While searching for Adèle, I landed on another blog. The blog is written by Adèle’s great-great-granddaughter, Kathinka Lindhe. She writes about Adèle and about a book she has published. And there is a picture of Adèle! I find it fascinating that we are both blogging about our great-great-grandmothers – who were best friends!

Johanna Jacobina Schubert marries Eric Sparre

There is only one wedding described in Augusta’s diary, the wedding of her cousin Carolina Schubert’s daughter Johanna (Hanna). Hanna was 2 years younger than Augusta and they were best friends. On August 7, 1851, Hanna married Count Lars Eric Georg Sparre. There are no descriptions of what the women wore and especially nothing about how the bride looked.

Given that Queen Victoria in 1840 had worn a white wedding dress, it is likely that the fashion in Sweden in 1851 also dictated a white dress. The pictures above are a few paintings from this time period of brides getting dressed.

”Hanna is married, but I will have to start at the beginning.

On the evening of the 6th of August, before the important day that would give Hanna the name, honor, and dignity of being a countess, her bridesmaids and the groomsmen were invited to merrily celebrate the last hours of her carefree time as a free woman.

I was the first to arrive. Shortly thereafter, Countess Sparre accompanied by her sister, an old dry and dull Mamsell, and two tall girls from Carlscrona, Miss Rappe and Mamsell Hjelm, both silent and inaccessible, arrived. Miss Ströberg, Mamsell Lenning, Rosa de Mare, Ada Sparre, and little Emelie Schubert were the other bridesmaids who, one after the other, made their entrance into the red parlor.

Soon, the groomsmen arrived. The first one to be presented was a Baron Rappe (cousin to the tall Miss Rappe) who displayed the forthright, trustworthy, and honest character that generally is associated with sailors and which makes you immediately comfortable and uninhibited in their company. Then followed a sharp-nosed Baron Falkenberg, a man I had previously met when he was a cadet. I think he was a little in love with Miss Rappe’s great merits as one always found him in her vicinity. Albert Schubert, the adventurer Ambjörn Sparre, Mr Victor Lenning, and the extraordinarily beautiful Baron Rehbinder were additional groomsmen. One of my Stockholm dance partners, Lieutenant Uggla, finished the lovable row of cavaliers.

After this short introduction, the dance began and continued until 10:30 in the evening without any particularly ingenuity and without any of us having made any advances in getting acquainted.

Thursday the 7th of August was the momentous day that would lead Hanna to a life of sorrow and despair or, with God’s grace, possibly to one with happiness and prosperity. Wållander officiated the ceremony in the most extraordinarily moving way; I think there was hardly any dry eye in the room. Weddings are all the same, a little monotonous and boring, but I had no reason to complain as my cavalier was a General.

The next day at breakfast, most of the wedding guests were assembled. General Boij and Lieutentant Colonel Tömgren conversed so diligently with me that they forgot to eat the stately breakfast. This gave rise to several sarcastic statements from the younger groomsmen, which I answered. My replies were not appreciated and made Baron Rappe my enemy. Baron Rehbinder and I, now at last, became a little more acquainted, but the two sailors and the two ladies from Carlscrona kept to themselves as peas in a pod and were impossible to form any closer acquaintance with.

I was asked to sing and I had to come forward to show my talent. It think it went reasonably well and I was thanked in the most flattering terms. The men sang a couple of quartets, very well, and finally we parted to get ready for the ball.

Twelve different uniforms swirled around the ballroom and offered a fairly lively view. The anticipation for the ball was high. As soon as I entered the hall I was asked to dance all the dances and, of course, I was not sad to feel so desirable. The ball lasted until 3:00 in the morning.”

Ball. Illustrerad Tidning 1858.

Footnote: Baron K.A. Rappe and his cousin Miss Torborg Rappe later married.


Balls, theater performances, and concerts

”I spent the winter and summer of 1848 at home in deepest solitude, sometime interrupted by a visit from and to Krusenhof.

In January 1849 I traveled, accompanied by Hanna Schubert, to Stockholm where we stayed with baroness Ribbing. Naturally, we had a good deal of amusement: balls, theater performances, and concerts followed in pleasurable succession. Lessons in singing for Mr. Dannström and dutiful visits in return for the previous evenings’ pleasures occupied our mornings.

Erik Sparre came often and paid us visits and Lieutenant Wahlfelt did not come less often. In the spring he proposed to me, but I have always been told that my heart is petrified, and truth is, I believe that it is made of harder material than those of people in general. Anyway, the amiable Lieutenant’s proposal was rejected and in July I returned happy and free to my peaceful, quiet home.”


Krusenhof was the neighboring estate about 3 miles from Augusta’s home at Loddby. Her best friends, the family Hjort, lived there until December 1850 when they moved to Kungsholmen, Stockholm. More about the  family will come in later posts.


Hanna Schubert (b. 1829) was Augusta’s cousin’s daughter. She married Erik Sparre (mentioned above) in 1851.


Mr. Isidor Dannström was an opera singer and composer who also gave singing lessons. He was very famous in the 1840’s along with Jenny Lind. His portrait (right) was drawn by Joseph W. Wallander.


And who was Wahlfelt, the suitor? Paul Axel Fredrik Wahlfelt (b. 1817) was in 1849 a 32-year-old lieutenant who was an instructor in gymnastics and weaponry. He must have started his military education at an early age as the artist Maria Röhl included him in a drawing (left) of young cadets in 1832 .

In 1844, he was also included in Fritz von Dardel’s painting of the Burgesses’ Coronation Ball (top of page). This was a ball held in honor of the coronation of King Oscar I and Queen Josephine. The painting probably depicts the newly introduced dance – the polka. What is also interesting is that von Dardel tagged the dancers, as we do in today’s Facebook pictures. Therefore, we know that Paul Wahlfelt was the 5th gentleman from the left or the 4th gentleman from the right. It seems like that would be the tall, blond officer in the middle.


And as a footnote, Paul Wahlfelt never married.


Fritz von Dardel’s painting:
Maria Röhl’s drawing of Wahlfelt:
Isidor Dannström:
Hanna Schubert: