Who was Tante Cordier?

I couldn’t find any picture of Tante Cordier, so I painted a miniature portrait of how I think she looked.

Last week, I wrote about the time before sidewalks, about winter in Stockholm, and how nice it was when the dirty slush in the streets froze. Augusta’s friend Lotten had described it in a letter to Augusta. Lotten also wrote about taking a walk with the lovely Tante Cordier.

Who was she?

I don’t remember having seen that name before in any of Lotten’s letters to Augusta.

“This morning when I woke up, I saw through the window a clear blue sky and was told that it was below freezing outside. You know how happy one gets about dry streets after walking in dirt, 2 feet deep. I hurriedly dressed and, accompanied by my lovely Tante Cordier, walked far, far out, admiring and delighting in the glorious nature. Is there anything more lovely than a clear winter day? It made me so happy and it will keep me going for a whole week in case the weather gets dreadful again.” (Lotten’s letter to Augusta, dated 24 November 1845)

In search of Tante Cordier

So who was Tante Cordier? When I look for someone in Stockholm, I usually start with the digitized census records. This time, I search for Cordier but there are no results for 1845.

Church record of Tante Cordier in 1844
Church record of Tante Cordier in 1844

After the census records, I usually check the church records. Besides the government, the Church of Sweden also kept an eye on the citizens. Each household was subjected to a yearly household examination, making sure that the inhabitants could read the bible (and were vaccinated against smallpox!). Within each parish, the results of the examinations were recorded in the church ledger, sorted by city block and house number – listed the way it would have been recorded by the pastor as he walked down the street and visited each family. The records are now digitized, but they are not searchable, so reading through the ledgers is like visiting each address and checking in on each household. It is time-consuming to look for someone, but it is also pretty fascinating.

Since I know Lotten’s address, I decide to start there. I could always just check on her neighbors as well. Tante Cordier would probably have lived close to Lotten.


Widow, Wife of Professor, M.C. Cordier de Bonneville reads the entry. She lived at the same address as Lotten.

Tante Cordier's census record in 1845
Tante Cordier’s census record in 1845

Now that I know her full last name, I go back to the census records and find her handwritten declaration for the 1845 census.  Marie Christine Cordier de Bonneville was the widow of professor Cordier de Bonneville. Her maiden name was Björk and she was born 23 May 1781.

With the unique name and title of her husband, I am sure Google will find him.

Professor Louis Joseph Anger S:t Cordier de Bonneville

The first hit is a wonderful Swedish blog written about Louis Joseph Anger S:t Cordier de Bonneville, with quotes from author Wilhelm von Braun who described the professor in hilarious detail.

Professor Bonneville was born in Amiens, France in 1766. He was a painter and an engraver. In 1798, he moved to Sweden to work on the engravings of a series of paintings ”Voyage Pittoresqe de la Suède”. The final series consisted of 19 plates, finished in 1802. Some of his engravings can be found at the Swedish National Gallery.

Bonneville was also a teacher of French and was appointed as professor of French at Karlberg, the military academy in Stockholm. There are amusing stories about Professor Bonneville by Wilhelm von Braun and others from this time. There is even a story about him and his wife, our Tante Cordier, who he referred to as his “little friend”.

Tante Cordier and her husband didn’t have any children but they had a foster daughter, Sophia Carolina Eleonora, who took the name Cordier. Professor Bonneville died in 1843 – 2 years before Lotten’s and Tante Cordier’s winter walk.

It is amazing how a single name in a letter can lead to stories and pictures and add to the knowledge of a time and a place. I now see Tante Cordier, her colorful French husband’s “little friend”, and imagine how she and her husband went to the theatre together. He was fond of food and they probably had nice dinners. Maybe they had his paintings or etchings framed in their parlor.

I am sure Tante Cordier was delighted to have Lotten as a neighbor.

The view of the town Gustavia on the island of St. Barthelemy. Engraving by  J. A. Cordier de Bonneville

The view of the town Gustavia on the island of St. Barthelemy. Engraving by  J. A. Cordier de Bonneville


New in the 1840s: Sidewalks in Stockholm

Klara Norra Kyrkogata 8. Watercolor by Fritz Lindvall.
Klara Norra Kyrkogata 8. Watercolor by Fritz Lindvall.

Augusta’s friend, Lotten Westman, was an orphan. She and her younger sister Clara lived with a Mademoiselle Hellberg in Stockholm. The house was located at the intersection of two streets: Klara Norra Kyrkogata and Mäster Samuelsgatan.

What did the house look like? Would there be any paintings or drawings of the house? Or a photograph – even if it was taken years later?

Stockholm has a nice archive where you can search on street names or topics. I give it a try, entering the names of the streets. The only thing I find is a watercolor of one of the streets, Klara Norra Kyrkogata. I know where it is painted! If the painter had just turned his gaze to the left, he would have seen Lotten’s house across the intersection. For those familiar with Stockholm, the houses in the paintings were demolished and gave way to the large department store, Åhlens.

The painting is beautiful and it shows two kids sledding down the street. It is probably painted in the late 1800s and not in the 1840s when Lotten lived there. One clue is the fact that the man is walking on a sidewalk – I will get to that, but let’s start with Lotten’s description of the same street in 1845.

”This morning when I woke up, I saw through the window a clear blue sky and was told that it was below freezing outside. You know how happy one gets about dry streets after walking in dirt, 2 feet deep. I hurriedly dressed and, accompanied by my lovely Tante Cordier, walked far, far out, admiring and delighting in the glorious nature. Is there anything more lovely than a clear winter day? It made me so happy and it will keep me going for a whole week in case the weather gets dreadful again.” (Lotten’s letter to Augusta, dated 24 November 1845)

A wet hem
A wet hem

I can imagine the winter – snow, horse manure, and dirt freezing and thawing in cycles. Imagine walking in the street, watching out for horses and sleighs and at the same time trying not to get your long skirt wet or dirty. When it froze, it was certainly a lot easier to walk.

But 2 feet deep dirt! Was it really that bad? Were the streets paved? Were there sidewalks?

I find an interesting book about Stockholm, published in 1897. It has everything about the infrastructure of the city and its history. It has a chapter on Stockholm’s streets, sewage system, and parks.

I have found the answers to my questions.

Yes, it was bad. In 1827, a Professor Cederschiöld suggested that

The streets should be built as, for example, in Copenhagen with slightly elevated walkways or so-called sidewalks on the sides of the streets so that the pedestrians would not have to wade in the middle of the dirt and be crowded by horses and vehicles, with a not insignificant danger of being injured or even being run over.”

Potholes on Prince Street, a cobbled street in Alexandria, Virginia, USA

In Stockholm, the law stated that the house owner was responsible for paving the adjacent street with stones. The owner was also responsible for upkeep and repair of the street. There were no standards for the paving and no control of upkeep, resulting in uneven streets and potholes that filled with water. In the middle of the streets, there were sometimes larger stepping stones, so-called Mayor’s Stones (Swedish: Borgmästarstenar). As there were yet no sidewalks, walking on these stones allowed you to stay clear of puddles and dirt.

Street cleaning was supposed to be done on Wednesdays and Saturdays and to be done by the tenants of the house.

In 1845, the year Lotten wrote her letter (above), the city assumed the responsibility for the streets, but the cost was levied by a special property tax. This was the beginning of professionally paved streets using cut stones.

Where Lotten lived, there were no sidewalks, but it was about to change. The first recorded sidewalk was built in 1844 in front of a newly constructed house at Jakobsgatan 5.  It was beautiful and served as an inspiration for building more sidewalks. But the need for sidewalks was also hotly debated. The first entire street to have sidewalks was Regeringsgatan. Slowly, Stockholm was getting sidewalks – at least on the busier streets.

Nowadays, we take for granted that streets have sidewalks and that snow is removed from the streets and that sand and/or salt is applied. Some tax will cover the costs.

"Mayor's Stones" in the middle of the street on which Augusta lived as a newlywed (Lillgatan, Strängnäs,)
”Mayor’s Stones” in the middle of the street on which Augusta lived as a newlywed (Lillgatan, Strängnäs,)

But in my hometown of Lincoln, Nebraska, USA, sidewalks are still private and in older neighborhoods, a sidewalk can suddenly stop because the homeowners didn’t want a sidewalk in front of their house.

I got curious and had to look up the sidewalk policies in Lincoln:

  • Property owners or builders are responsible for constructing concrete sidewalks adjacent to the property.
  • Sidewalk repair is the responsibility of the City of Lincoln
  • Property owners must clear sidewalks of snow and ice by 9:00 am the morning following the end of each storm.

I don’t think I knew that we had to clear snow by 9:00 am, but at least we don’t have to sweep the street on Wednesdays and Saturdays!

Grubbens trädgård

Fleminggatan österut, Grubbens trädgård till vänster.
I Augustas brev hösten 1852 beskriver hon för sin älskade Adolf hur långsamma dagarna är på Kungsholmen. Men hon gör promenader till ”Grubbiska Trädgården”.
Hon bor inackorderad hos familjen Hjort på Hantverkargatan för att få behandling för sin lungsot av professor Malmsten. Hon får inte göra något annat än vila.
12 oktober berättar hon:
Jag är alldeles intagen af professor Malmsten. Han är den mest vänliga, förståndiga och angenäma Doctor man kan påträffa, alltid glad och treflig, aldrig vresig och vårdslös som andra Esculapii söner. Hvad jag minst beundrar hos honom är hans gräsliga envishet att vilja truga i mig fiskolja, och han får nog sin vilja fram till slut, fastän jag strider emot i det längsta.
Och säkert hade fiskoljan ingen effekt alls på  hennes tuberkulos, man visste ju inte vad sjukdomen berodde på vid denna tid. Den kallades ibland för trånandesjuka.  Det kanman förstå av nästa stycke i brevet, där Augusta beskriver hur stadens societetsdamer bemöter henne.

Jag gör dagligen promenader bortåt Grubbiska trädgården, rumlar hvarenda middag af Bacchi safter, har dagligen en mängd feminina visiter som icke roa mig det ringaste. Alla mina eleganta salongsconnaissancer drifvas af nyfikenheten hit, för att se hur jag tar mig ut med en förstörd lunga. Det är alltid någonting att tala om på nästa aftons soirée. Man kan till och med få sätta ihop små intressanta historier om hur min beklagansvärda bröstsjukdom kommit af olycklig kärlek, hvars föremål hvar och en tror sig veta. 
Jag blev lite nyfiken på var Grubbiska trädgården låg. Kungsholmen var ju rena landet i mitten av 1800-talet, åtminstone den norra delen. Jag sökte på nätet och hittade en lång detaljrik historia om både trädgården och husen runt omkring. Eftersom det är copyright på den, lämnar jag bara länken, så kan var och en läsa den på orginalstället. Länk
Trädgården var i mitten på 1800-talet en ståtlig parkanläggning. Där hade tidigare också varit tivoli och nöjespark. I Nordiska museets samlingar finns ett program från en tillställning där 1843. Kanske fungerade trädgården som ett Skansen eller Gröna Lund långt innan dessa etablerades som nöjesparker i slutet av 1800-talet.
Jag ser för mig hur Augusta lägger sin stora yllesjal över de tunna axlarna, kanske tar hon på ytterligare en sjal, eftersom hon inte får bli kall. Hon snör sina kängor och tar på hatt och handskar och tar med en liten retikyl med näsduken i. Sedan går hon nerför trappan i huset kv Fikonträdet där familjen Hjort bor. Hon tar till vänster på Hantverkargatan och rundar hörnet där postkontoret ligger. Det är där hon brukar posta sina brev till Adolf i Uppsala. Hennes promenad fortsätter in på Trädgårdsgatan (nuvarande Scheelegatan). På höger sida har hon nu Piperska muren med sin fina barockträdgård. Hon fortsätter norrut ända fram till Reparebansgatan (nuvarande Fleminggatan). Där ligger porten in till Grubbens Trädgård. Den är säkert öppen så här mitt på dagen. Inne i parken finns små gångar med vackra planteringar mellan buskar och träd. Kanske sätter sig Augusta där på en bänk och pustar ut en stund, kanske hostar hon lite i sin näsduk.  Men säkert beundrar hon höstfärgerna i den vackra parken.  Det är ju mitten av oktober och den friska höstluften gör henne gott. Bara att få komma ut från det lilla rummet måste kännas som en lättnad.  Vågar hon hoppas att det ligger ett brev från Uppsala hemma och väntar, när hon kommer hem?


Jag tog en promenad på Kungsholmen idag, utan vackra sjalar och utan hatt! Men mössa för den bitande kalla vinden. Jag hittade resterna av parken mellan TryggHansas kontor och St Eriks ögonsjukhus. Här ligger idag en blandning av arkitektritade höghus, sekelskiftesinspirerade lägre hus och några gamla hus från den tid Grubbens var
arbetsinrättning. Ett trevligt område med nytt och gammalt i en fin blandning.
Mitt i området ligger en fyrkantig grusplan med några äldre träd. Jag läser på skylten, jag har kommit till Grubbens trädgård anno 2019.

Fleminggatan österut från trakten av Kronoberget, 1868, av Hallberg, Carl Peter (1809-1879), Stockholms stadsmuseum

Närmast till vänster syns Lenmans gärde efter köpmannen Hans Lenman (1683-1739); därefter Grubbens trädgård som ligger i dagens S:Eriksområde. Här anlades år 1860 en försörjningsinrättning för invalidiserade och kroniskt sjuka personer som var i behov av vård, men inte togs emot på vanliga sjukhus. På Kvarnberget längst till vänster skymtar Grubbens kvarn. Grubbens syftar på de tidigare ägarna, handelsmannasläkten Grubb, adlad af Grubbens. Kyrktornet i bakgrunden är Sankta Klara och den stora byggnaden är Stockholms slott.

Two Dresses in Parramatta and a Book about Domestic Life

Stockholm, 22 January 1846.

My own beloved Augusta!

Thank you, thank you, my good friend for your last letter, even though I had to wait quite some time to get it. But I will not scold you, only thank you so much for your last letter.

I should probably start by thanking you for your good wishes for the new year. I thank you for your wish that my heart will be free and I share your thoughts that one is happiest that way. I have received a very opposite wish from Dora; she wished that I would seriously fall in love with someone. Let’s see whose wish will come true by the end of the year. I am on your side so there are two wishes against one.

Have I written to you in the New Year and sent my well-wishes? I think so. If not, you know that I wish you all the best. My good friend, what many Christmas presents you got! It is a shame that they will not be seen in Stockholm this winter. You wish to hear mine; although they did not measure up with yours, I was completely satisfied. Here you have them:

  • Two dresses, very beautiful and modern, Parramatta or whatever it is called
  • One black long shawl
  • One pink silk cap
  • Book: Accounts of the Domestic Life
  • One beautiful bertha
  • White gloves
  • The most beautiful, small, knitted cap to have on the trip to and from the theatre
  • A tied crepe
  • Ribbons of all colors and dimensions and lots of things too small to specify in detail.


What did Augusta get for Christmas in 1845? Maybe similar items. Clothes and accessories were obviously important Christmas gifts for 19-year-old women.  Did Augusta also get clothing made of Parramatta – beautiful and modern?

I had never heard of Parramatta before and had to look it up. Parramatta was a type of fabric that became popular in the 1840s. Many advertisements in the daily papers, both in Norrköping and Stockholm, listed Parramatta among the fabrics for sale. So what was it?

The Parramatta Female Factory

The Parramatta Female Factory
The Parramatta Female Factory

Parramatta is a suburb of Sydney, Australia. In the 1840s, it was a British settlement. It was famous for its woolen mills and infamous for The Parramatta Female Factory. The factory was a penitentiary for women convicts who were sentenced to labor in the form of manufacturing woven cloth for export. It also served as a workhouse for incapacitated women. The factory opened in 1821 and in 1827, the women rioted because of cut in food rations and poor conditions. In 1842, over 1200 women and children lived in the factory. By 1848, the factory closed.

Parramatta as a Textile Term

Most of the fabric exported from Parramatta was wool fabrics. In textile terms, Parramatta refers to a light, twill, dress fabric with a silk or cotton warp and a woolen weft. So Parramatta fabric could be produced in Europe as well as being imported from Australia. Lotten’s dress fabric could have come from the Parramatta Female Factory or from some textile mill in Europe. But to Lotten, it was simply beautiful and modern.

The Book: Accounts of the Domestic Life

Skildringar ur det Husliga Lifvet (Accounts of the Domestic Life) by Anna Fredrika Ehrenborg
Skildringar ur det Husliga Lifvet (Accounts of the Domestic Life) by Anna Fredrika Ehrenborg

If there had been a bestseller list in December of 1845, Accounts of the Domestic Life would have been on the list. The book, “Skildringar ur det Husliga Lifvet” was penned by Anonymous.

Today, the book is available as a paperback on Amazon so I could have wished for it for Christmas! But there is no need for that; the book is available for free as a scanned copy of the 1845 edition.

The real author was Anna Fredrika Ehrenborg, born Carlqvist (1794-1873). She was deeply spiritual and a follower of Swedenborg.  I don’t know if Lotten liked the book, but it would have been the kind of moral book a young woman should read.

I am sure Lotten never wondered about Parramatta manufacturing or why her gifts were considered suitable for young women.  She was “completely satisfied” with her gifts. And I am sure the dresses and accessories were beautiful, just like those depicted on the fashion plates  – the fashion in Stockholm, 1845.


Tack för julklappen – på 1800-talets romantiska språk

1853 skrev inte Augusta dagbok längre. Så för att förstå hennes vardag får man pussla lite. Det stora Augustapusslet innehåller många olika bitar. Brev, kassaböcker, anteckningsböcker… Det är helt fantastiskt att det finns så mycket bevarat.

Just från mellandagarna 1853 finns ett brevutkast från Augusta till Adolfs älskade farbror i Linköping. Så mitt julpussel blev att få ihop historien om Augustas julklapp. Vad var det egentligen hon fick?

Helt fantastiskt hur man broderade med vackra ord i mitten av 1800-talet!

För första gången fattar jag nu pennan i afsigt att tillskrifva min Adolfs älskade Farbror. Om jag med detta tillfälle mindre rådfrågat, min förmåga än min innerliga önskan, att inför Farbror nedlägga några blyga violer af tacksamhet och erkänsla; om aktningens och tillgifvenhetens små englar afundsjukt gömmer sig i kalken af hjertats purpurros, och ej vilja låta pennan omtala hur friska och leende de äro; om jag med ett ord i dessa rader ej fullkomligt kan uttrycka hwad jag så lifligt känner – så hoppas jag innerligt, att min oförmåga måtte få dölja sig bakom öfverseendets milda strålar, på det att Farbror endast måtte se den goda viljan. Det bländande öfverrasknig Farbrors godhet beredde mig på sjelfva julafton var för dyrbar, för smakfull, för angenäm, att jag med annan rätt skulle kunna uttrycka min djupa tacksamhet. Rosorna på locket äro en bouquette af minnesblommor som ständigt skola tala till mig om gifvaren och ofta ja mycket ofta hoppas jag få minnas mig den fröjden att ur denna silfverkälla få servera Farbror den arromatiska drycken. —

Det gamla året stundar snart i grafven bredvid sina företrädare, och det nya med sina okända öden träder oss till mötes…

Jag funderade på vad julklappen var för en pryl. Ja, den var av silver och hade rosor på locket, förmodligen en kanna av något slag.

Kaffekanna i silver 1850-tal. Kanske såg Augustas kanna ut så här.

Sedan letade jag vidare efter pusselbitar. I Adolfs anteckningsbok hittar jag nästa pusselbit. Under ”utgifter” 24 december hittar jag en notering: Frakt för silfverkannan 1 Rdr. Adolf fick nog lösa ut kannan som skickats med posten från Linköping.

Kan jag hitta någon mer beskrivning. Jag letar i Augustas bouppteckning på Riksarkivet 1855 och hittar mycket riktigt en kaffekanna i silver 90 Rdr. Synd att jag inte vet hur den såg ut och vem som ärvde den. Den finns säkert hos någon av alla mina sysslingar.

Man kan ju tycka att en kaffekanna inte är särskilt märkvärdig. Men jag tror att kaffedrickandet i familjen Nordwall nog var en relativt ny företeelse. Man drack ”caffe” på caféer ser jag bland alla utgifter, men kanske inte hemma i samma omfattning. En fin kaffekanna att ”servera den arromatiska drycken” ur, var nog lite lyx.

I Adolfs anteckningsbok skriver han 13 februari 1853 mitt bland alla arbetsanteckningar om tentor och elever:

Börjar dricka caffe på eftermidd.


Titelbild: Mary Cassat ”The Tea”, MFA Boston