John Magnus Påhlman (1860 – 1945)

The Dedicated Innovator

Johan Magnus Påhlman was not merely satisfied with a legacy, and made attempts to amplify and improve his father’s efforts throughout his career.

John Magnus Ottosson Påhlman was the youngest of four children of Otto Magnus Påhlman and his wife Amalia, born on 26 March 1860 in Kristiania (Oslo), Norway. John Magnus trained as a calligrapher, and with his elder brother Otto Ottosson, he was a co-owner of their father’s writing institute in Stockholm in 1880. He played an instrumental role in its growth and development over the following decades.

In 1881, the school’s popularity had increased and it incorporated additional courses including business and accounting. Now a trade school, its name was updated to the Bröderna Påhlmans Handelsinstitut. As a next step, the brothers also set up a post office and bank, with their own currency, at their new premises in Sveavägen. 

Like his brother, John Magnus taught at the naval school in Stockholm between 1883 and 1887. When Otto Ottosson moved to Denmark in 1887 and set up a branch of the institute in Copenhagen, the brothers initially co-owned that as well, while John Magnus also headed the main Stockholm branch. By 1891, John Magnus was the Stockholm school’s sole owner and principal. 

On 27 October 1891, John Magnus married Sara Maria Bredenberg in Stockholm.1Born 31 January 1868 in Sundsvall, daughter of the consul and wholesaler Daniel Christian Bredenberg and Maria Catharina Dyhr. They had four children, all born in Stockholm, where John Magnus owned a house; the youngest died in infancy. The children’s names were John Otto Daniel (b. 1892), Sara Maria Amelie (Maja) (b. 1893), Gösta John Magnus (b. 1895), and Ragnar John Christian (1896-1899).2“Påhlman nr 501”, Adelsvapen-Wiki,åhlman_nr_501, accessed: 11 April 2024

Eager to expand the family’s legacy and the unique writing method first developed by his father, John Magnus soon set up an institute in Oslo in 1893, and also travelled to neighbouring countries as well as southern Europe. He was a book publisher and managing director of a Stockholm-based board and literature joint stock company in 1894. The Påhlmanska Skrivmetoden was published in Germany and Austria in 1901, followed by Belgium and France in 1903, and in the neighbouring countries of Norway and Denmark in 1904.

Among these successes, John Magnus noted the need for a one-year business programme to attract students who either could not afford the existing two-year programmes at other schools, or had prior knowledge and could choose to accelerate their studies. He developed a practical syllabus in Swedish, and the programme was successful when it was launched. He also added practical departments for customs, post, steamboat and railways, as well as banking courses in 1907. These were in line with the state authorities’ vision, and in 1918, it became the first private business school to receive state supervision and support.

Between 1912 and 1923, a commercial high school was also established, but was shut down due to a lack of premises. The institute was converted into a limited company in 1923, and new vocational, correspondence and citizenship courses were added to its roster. A year later, John Magnus published “The Battle of the Påhlman Writing Method: To a Disputed Teaching Question’s History”, exploring the famed writing method as well as the controversies surrounding it. In 1930, the school moved to Sveavägen. In 1933, John Magnus’ son Gösta became its rector – he was an alumnus of the institute himself, and had graduated in 1914, following which he became an assistant teacher before getting a law degree.

John Magnus Påhlman garnered several accolades for his lifetime of work. Like his brother, he received the Royal Order of Vasa (RVO) in 1899 – promoted to the commander class (KVO2kl) in 1922 – and the Royal Order of the North Star (RNO) in 1905. Additionally, he received the Danish honour, Royal Order of Dannebrog (RDDO), in 1916; Sweden’s Order of Saint John (RJohO) in 1930; as well as the Swedish Royal Pro Patria Society’s medal. 

He died on 24 December 1945 in Stockholm.