On April 22, 1903, my grandmother, Emma Kristina Magnusson, boarded the Oceanic in Liverpool, England and sailed to a new life in the United States of America bringing The Bowl with her. I was originally planning to photograph The Bowl and post the photo tomorrow, the 108th anniversary of her departure, but I will be going away tomorrow for a few days so it appears today.
I don’t know how Grandma traveled from her home in Appelbo, Dalarna, Sweden to get to Liverpool. The ship’s manifest lists two other passengers from Appelbo, a young man and young woman, both in their early twenties, so I assume they accompanied her. According to the manifest, Grandma was 22 years old (my mother thought she was actually 17 when she traveled to the US without her family); she had $88.50 with her (a small fortune; in today’s dollars that would be almost $2,200); and she had a ticket to her final destination, a brother-in-law called August Nordling who lived in Hallbeck, Minnesota. That’s all I know. My mother never passed on any information about her parents’ lives in Sweden nor how they traveled to the US nor how they met in this country. And The Bowl was always a mystery to us; all we knew was that it was carved from the burl of an unknown tree, it was called a “milk bowl,” and it had symbols and dates carved on its underside. We never thought to ask Grandma about it while she was alive. Based on the dates carved on it, the Bowl is at least 278 years old.
About 15 years ago, my mother met a Swedish woman who shared a book with her called “Sing the Cows Home” by Kerstin Brorson. This book describes the herdswomen of Dalarna, Sweden, the area of Sweden where my Grandmother was born. From the book, we learned more than we ever knew about Grandma’s life in Sweden. The women in her region looked after the livestock. Each summer when the snow melted, they traveled to their village’s “fabod” (a place to put the livestock), deep in the forest, sometimes 40 kilometers away from home. There they looked after the animals, milking them in the morning, and tending them while they grazed in the afternoon. Evenings were spent making butter and cheese. And they took pride in making the bowls and containers they used for the milk and cheese, marking them with family names and symbols. So, that is how The Bowl, with its lustrous patina, intriguing symbols, and compelling family history, came to be. About ten years ago, my mother entrusted me with stewardship of The Bowl. This photo shows its underside with its symbols and dates laying on an enlarged copy of the Oceanic ship’s manifest. If you look closely at the lower left corner of the photo, you can see the entry for my Grandmother, “Magnusson, Emma Kristina.”
Lens at 34mm