Andre Oscar Wallenberg (1816-1886)
Swedish Banker, Politician & Journalist
By Goran B. Nilsson
TRANSLATED from the Swedish by Michael F. Metcalf
Almqvist & Wiksell International
445 pages, Illustrated, 6 ½" x 9 ¾"
Andre Oscar Wallenberg (1816-1886) was a Renaissance man who found himself in the wrong century. Already as a young teenager, this bishop's son from Linkoping, Sweden, went to sea in order to meet a new world in the United States. As a naval officer, AOW later trained himself in "the young navy" as a politician and a banker. Then, in 1851, he left the straitjacket of his naval career to become a wholesale merchant and to live for the concept of banking as an idea.
In the world of banking, Wallenberg set about modernizing the old-fashioned Swedish system of credit along the lines of well-proven Scottish practices, while improving those practices in various ways. The founding of Stockholms Enskilda Bank (SEB) in 1856 was of crucial significance and provided an important model for other Swedish banks. But AOW was also able to rely on his extensive contributions to Swedish Journalism, his rapid rise as the leader of the powerful liberal faction in the Estate of the Burgers within the nation's four-chamber Riksdag, and his good relations with Finance Minister J.A. Gripenstedt.
Once new banking legislation that he had championed was enacted in 1864 and 1874, AOW was satisfied that he had established "the world's best banking system." In 1878-79, however, both this system and the now Wallenberg family-dominated SEB found themselves in a deep crisis following a number of all too bold investments in railroads, iron foundries, and sawmill operations. The crisis brought a close to AOW's grand career as a leading financier, politician and journalist during Sweden's liberal breakthrough, but, paradoxically, it marked the beginning of a new era of triumph for the Wallenberg family as a whole. The family had not initially welcomed the close cooperation that would provide the Wallenbergs with both profits and power in the future. For his part, AOW had laid a strong foundation for this future thanks to the very purposeful family policy that he and his wide Anna pursued so single-mindedly.
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