Bernard A. Ahlberg Biography

From South Jersey: A History 1624-1924

BERNARD ABRAHAM AHLBERG

BERNARD ABRAHAM AHLBERG, former captain of industry, of Camden, New Jersey, and leader in all its departments of life, was born September 18, 1858, in Sweden, and died May 24, 1925. His parents were Abraham and Inga (Friedberg) Ahlberg. His father was of Scotch and his mother, of German descent. His father, who was a ship-builder, served in the Swedish Navy in his youth. Bernard Abraham Ahlberg got little schooling in his boyhood. At the age of fourteen he was bound apprentice to a coppersmith, for whom he worked for three years for a total remuneration of $2.99 per annum and his board. Somehow, he had to clothe himself and pay for his washing during that period and somehow he did it. He also studied. When eighteen years of age he came to the United States, and after spending six months in Brooklyn, New York, went on to Philadelphia, where he obtained employment and remained with the same concern for nineteen years, rising to the position of superintendent and saving his money to such good purpose that in 1902 he was able to go into business with two others in Philadelphia. He dissolved this partnership in 1907, and going to Camden, founded the Camden Copper Works on Fifth Street, at Washington, whence he moved to the present site at Nos. 559-609 South Second Street, in December of 1911. The business was incorporated under the laws of New Jersey in 1912 for $50,000 fully paid, with Mr. Ahlberg as president and manager; Dr. Wesley J. Barrett, secretary, and Walter E. Ahlberg, the founder’s son, as treasurer. These also constituted the board of directors.

While Mr. Ahlberg was employed in Philadelphia, he attended the Drexel Institute, studying every course in its curriculum and arriving at such a degree of technical knowledge and skill that all the high class special machinery manufactured at his plant and which is known all over the world for its excellence is of his designing. He was a student of Drexel Institute until he was forty-four years of age-and all the time he was imbibing theoretical knowledge at night, he was checking it up against experience gained in his daily tasks. He could turn to and do any job in his plant. He made, for instance, complete sugar and dyewood plants for all parts of the United States, Japan, Russia, and South America. Nearly all the fluid extracts manufactured in the United States go through Camden copper machinery. He employed from thirty to eighty, all skilled mechan­ics, and the annual payroll is from $40,000 to $50,000.

Among his men Mr. Ahlberg was not known as the “boss,” they called him “Daddy,” and he looked after them. He was the greatest owner of building and loan stock in Camden, and saw to it that every one of his employees owned his own home. Not only that but he made his men’s troubles his own. Some of his workers were associated with him for forty years and they were all one big family. When anyone working for Mr. Ahlberg met with a difficulty he took it to headquarters and Mr Ahlberg found the way to· extinguish it. In addition, his charity was widespread.

But Mr. Ahlberg did not confine his activities to his own business and the service of the men who worked for him. He served the public, too, and had his hand on the steering apparatus of the great local institutions. He was president of the Camden Copper Works, Inc.; director in the People’s Building and Loan Association; director in the Republic Building and Loan Association; director in the Parkside Trust Company; director and treasurer in the George M. Beringer Drug Company; director in the Children’s Home of Camden; director in the West Jersey Homeopathic Hospital; treasurer and director in the Citizens’ Relief Association; treasurer and director in the Citizens’ Committee; chairman of the Advisory Board of the. Salvation Army; past director in the Chamber of Commerce; and director of the Camden Automobile Club. Fraternally, he was affiliated with all the Masonic bodies, being a member of Trimble Lodge, No. 117 Free and Accepted Masons; Siloam Chapter, Royal Arch Masons; Cyrene Commandery, Knights Templar; Excelsior Consistory, Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite; Van Hook Council, No. 8; Crescent Shrine, Ancient Arabic Order Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, of Trenton, New Jersey; the Tall Cedars of Lebanon, Forest No.5; and was a representative of Trimble Lodge at the Grand Lodge. Mr. Ahlberg belonged to the United Workmen; American Mechanics; Camden Club; and the Tavistock Chamber of Commerce. He was a member of the Lutheran Church.

During the World War, Mr. Ahlberg was captain of teams in all the drives; he was chairman of the Charity Committee of the Rotary Club from 1914 to 1923. He was interested and sympathetic in regard to new inventions, and being himself an inventor of high repute and considerable experience, was competent to advise and assist some young man who had found, or thought he had found, some new big force or principle or process which will enable industry to take another forward step.

Mr. Ahlberg married, in Philadelphia, on October 20, 1884, Teresa B. Swenson, born in Sweden, and daughter of Gottfried and Matilda Swenson, both Swedes. The Ahlberg children are: 1. Bertha, born August 20, 1895. 2; Walter E., born December 21, 1899. 3. Helen, born December 29, 1901..

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