The story of Hultafors started in 1883 when a young engineer, Karl-Hilmer Johansson Kollén, invented a measuring device that would facilitate Sweden's conversion to the metric system.
Man has always had a need to measure distance. In 1790, Talleyrand's national assembly ordered the Royal Academy of Sciences to produce a system of measurement units 'For all times, for all people'. The result was the metric system. Almost 100 years later the metric system was officially introduced in Sweden which meant that the old distance measurements were to be gradually phased out.
In Stockholm at that time, there lived a headstrong architect called Karl-Hilmer Johansson Kollén. He was commissioned to design details for a theatre, but refused on religious grounds and resigned his position. When the news about the new metric system came he quickly realised the educational value of being able to see both measurement systems at the same time. He developed a comparison rule. This was quite simply a measuring rule that showed both the old inches and the new centimetres. The problem was that the rule was awkward to handle in a single long piece. Hence Karl-Hilmer's next innovation – a rule that you could fold. The folding rule was born.
The first folding rule factory
An English lady who had heard about the new idea funded the first production of the folding rule. She invested 5,000 Swedish kronor and the rule manufacturing company Svenska Mått- och Tumstocksfabriken was established on Folkungagatan in Stockholm in 1883. It quickly became a success. When the factory in Stockholm became too small, Karl-Hilmer decided to move the factory to Gothenburg, his hometown
The owners were afraid that the business could be exposed to acts of espionage. To keep the secrets concerning production practices safe, several actions were taken. For example, the factory’s windows were made of raw glass for a long time and the employees’ appeals for clear glass, at least at the top of the windows, were denied. During each break the factory was vacated and locked; a guard let the workers back in 5 minutes before the break was over. When there were external visitors, some parts of the factory were barricaded. Although these may seem extreme measures, the owners never doubted the loyalty of the workers.
The laundry house
Close to the waterfall where the original factory stood, a small brick building was erected in 1945. The building was used as a laundry facility by the staff and their families. The staff received a 10% discount to use the facilities and it was quite popular. When housing standards became better in the 1960s along with the installation of washing machines in private homes, the laundry house lost some of its importance.