Friday, March 11, 2016


Otto Salomon was born at Gothenburg November 1st 1849 of Jewish parents. His early education was received in preparatory schools whence he proceeded for a few years to the Real Gymnasium in Gothenburg.

After passing the Student examination in 1868 he entered the Technical Institute in Stockholm but left in the following term to help his uncle August Abrahamson recently left a widower in the management of his estate at Naas, about 20 miles from Gothenburg In order to quality himself for these duties he attended the Agricultural Institute at Ultuna, in South Sweden in 1870-71.

His duties at Nääs did not take up all his time for he spent two or three hours a day in helping the parish schoolmaster who however was not pleased with “the spy which the school committee had sent him” He also started an evening school for farm servants and, in conjunction with a young lady helper, a Sunday school for a hundred children of the parish. In 1878 he was married to Ellen Wahren, the daughter of a woolen manufacturer at Norrkoping.

The Sloyd movement in Sweden had begun in the late sixties and early seventies. It was at first of economical rather than educational significant i.e it was a movement for home industries, which it was soon seen, must begin in the school if it was to have any lasting effect. Sloyd schools were started in different neighborhoods by private individuals, some of them close at hand in the lan or province of Alfsborg where Count Sparre, the chief of the province, had formed a Sloyd Union. 

Struck by the new movement, Herr Abrahamson, in February 1872, opened a work-school for boys at Naas, and two years later a similar one for girls, with his nephew for director. Special importance was attached to modern subjects, like mathematics drawing, and physiography; and seven hours out of ten were given to some kind of Sloyd – wood sloyd, turnery, chip carving or saddlery – the corresponding subjects for girls being weaving, sewing, and cookery. In 1886 a mixed school took the place of the two schools, but in 1888 the work of training teachers was growing so fast that the school had to be dropped altogether.

In 1874 Herr Salomon became Inspector of Sloyd Schools for the middle district of Alfsborg lan, a post which he still retains.

To meet the demand for Sloyd teachers, the Director in 1874 opened a training department in connection with his school, this being the first attempt of the kind. His earlier work in this direction must be discriminated from his later. The earlier was an attempt to turn intelligent artisans into schoolmasters; whereas he now seeks his Sloyd teachers, for the most part, from the ranks of the ordinary teachers. 

The plan for this 1874 attempt is to be found in the proceedings for that year of the Landtbruks Akademie, in Stockholm, in the paper entitled “Something about Sloyd and Sloyd Teaching”. The course was to last one year, and to embrace, besides Sloyd, mathematics natural science, the mother tongue, drawing and pedagogy. There were four students the first year. “The snowflake was the mother of the avalanche”

To make home industries general, it was necessary to appeal to the Folk Schools for help. And this by degrees gave another face to the whole movement. Whether school authorities were for Sloyd or against, both sides agreed that a purely economic movement could not claim the help of the school. If Sloyd, they said, was to find a place in an institution for general education, it could do so only as a means of promoting that general education. 

The question now began to be looked upon from an educational rather than an economical point of view. This appears in the 1874 article, but still more forcibly in a further article in 1876 entitled Sloyd Schools and Folk Schools.” 

But how it should serve educational aims was not so clear yet. One can see from this article that the chief aim in Sloyd teaching was to teach “the children of working men to love bodily labor”, and also to give them the capacity to use the hands on which their living would depend.

Salomon’s journey to Finland in the summer of 1877 was of the highest significance for him. His conversation with Cygnaeus whom he met for the first time and the lively interchange of letters afterwards, gave him a firm grip of these two leading ideas.” 

The Folk School, the foundation of all after learning, and “Sloyd a means of formal as opposed to material, education.” But he was no satisfied with the way in which these principles were worked out in Finland where Sloyd had not advanced much beyond the home industries stage and meant working at the rudiments of trade with no particular method. So he set to work on his return to supply the deficiency. One thing was already quite clear. 

The teacher only could make Sloyd educationally useful and so he strove henceforth to make the Sloyd school and the Folk School one. From 1878 therefore he began to take ordinary teachers in 5-6 week holiday course in Sloyd, beginning first with teachers form his own län and carrying on the work of the Summary on the same plan which he had begun 14 years before. But in 1882 came a thorough change. 

The twelve month course ceased, and the short courses were opened first to all Sweden and then to teachers from abroad. At the same time too, all other forms of Sloyd were dropped in favor of the one that was found the most useful educationally vz Wood Sloyd. 

The concentration of attention upon this one allowed of a development of it for educational purposes which it can scarcely be said to have receive elsewhere. And there can be no doubt too that it is this concentration which has been a powerful help in securing the introduction of Sloyd into the 1600 elementary schools in which it is now taught in Sweden.

The principles of Herr Salomon are set forth in his “Sloyd as a means of Education (1884) in his Teacher’ handbook (1890) and in the present work. The most important of them are these six

1. The concretion on one form of Sloyd

2. The making of useful articles and not of articles of luxury nor yet of parts of argicles e.g joints

3. The teaching based on education principles and the work methodically arranged

4. Voluntary and individual teaching

5. Positions to be chosen suitable for physical development

6. Drawing and sloyd to be combined

Herr Salomon keeps himself in touch with all the best thought and practice on his own particular subject and is therefore a great traveler and correspondent. The titles of recent books, monographs and articles on education handwork are to be found recorded from time to time with much else, in his “Sloyd undervisnings blad” which has appeared regularly each month since 1885

Herr Salmons interest are wider than Sloyd. His lectures show his knowledge of educational literature. He is the editor and translator of a series of educational classics. He has for instance translated for his countrymen Locke’s “Thoughts on Education” and more than one work of Salzmann’s.

Nääs is a good Sloyd school, and much besides. It is the meeting place of leading teachers of all degrees and all nationalities for common work and for the interchange of ideas. Professors, inspectors, secondary and elementary teachers - these meet on common ground as brethren. It fulfills, more than any other institution that could easily be named the ideal we are aiming at in England in the Teachers’ Guild.

And this is due to the earnest cooperation for the last 30 years of three men each of whom in his own sphere has done his very best Herr Abrahamson has made a noble use of his wealth in founding the Seminary and providing for its continued existence as a kindly host too, he makes his interest and presence felt in all that concerns the common work and the common pleasure. 

His nephew provides the ideas and the direction whilst Alfred Johansson is mainly responsible for the teaching in bench work which occupies such a large part of the day. But the chief burden falls on Director Salomon. It is he who has to lecture three or four times a day in different languages who is responsible for the general oversight, he to whom the mingled brightness and seriousness of the place is due and who in his position as a prominent leader in the movement is filled with fear lest he may take some step that may be misconstrued and throw the movement back. 

It might be thought there was danger in this unvarying success but the danger is balanced by his self-criticizing temper, by his onward stirring mind and by his enthusiasm for the cause. “Rest and be thankful” is no motto of his. He says: “Of one thing I am quite sure. The same moment that I find myself unable to make a further advance to give my cause the benefit of new ideas I should thing it right at once to return and let another take my place.”

It is out of experiences so varied and so long continued as these that the Theory of Sloyd as set forth in the following pages has quietly grown. Practice and theory at Nääs go ever hand in hand.

(Adapted for a paper by Hjalmar Berg in the Svensk Lararetidning, 25th February, 1891)