Alfortska öden / D1-grenen: Alfort i Eskilstuna / In English / Rekommenderat

The pharmacist who emigrated to America

Philip Alfort


  Nils Philip Alfort (28/3 1820 – 23/8 1866)
  D1 branch [1.2.11.3.1]
  Son of Adolf Fredrik Alfort & Wilhelmina Almroth
  Eskilstuna Kloster, Södermanland
  Apothecary, pharmacist
icon-globe  Emigrated to San Francisco


  Primary sources
  13-12-2018


Philip went to a school in Strängnäs in 1828, graduated in 1832 and moved to Stockholm on 22 December 1835 in order to study pharmacy, settling in the old city centre (Storkyrkan parish) at 15 years old. One gets the impression that his father, who was a highly successful medical doctor, had high expectations for his eldest son from an early age.

In September 1836 he apparently moved briefly to Sigtuna, but returned to Stockholm, and the following year he got an apprenticeship with apothecary Carl Lehman in northern Söderhamn, where he remained until October 1838. This is mentioned in a letter which the famous Swedish letter-writer Adolph Törneros wrote to his father that year. The letter, which talks a great deal about Philip:

Thus your Philipp is anxious not to spend more money on travelling than is strictly necessary. He did not pause to stay here to look around. Even the cathedral he did not succeed in seeing from within, for he arrived one or two minutes after the prayer hour had ended and the door been locked. I wanted to show him the Physical Instrument Room, which he himself had been curious about; but even there fate would that Rudberg was absent, he who otherwise spends almost every hour of the day at the place. The only thing I succeeded in opening for him was the Library and the art cabinett. – He now appeared to be in his métier, and to approach the world like an old experienced apothecary. It was no longer the pupil at school, but rather a man with his feet rooted in the soil of life. His sojourn away from home, and perhaps also 1½ years of added age, have given him attitude and skill within and without, very much in his favour. It is curious to see how fast personality will settle, from being an undecided je ne sais quoi. God favour him with happiness and well-being in his station up in the high north. For his exams he must surely have time to prepare himself at the time he has decided. School studies are a good foundation on which the small structure required for such a test and inspection can easily be built. But it was a fatal incident with his arm and hand, which has been injured for good.

The full letter can be read (in Swedish) here.

After his stay in Söderhamn, he returned home to Eskilstuna, but in December the following year he once more headed for the capital in order to complete his studies. He first settled at a pharmacy in the Ulrica neighbourhood (by the church) on the island of Kungsholmen, where he received the epithets orderly, staid and capable (ordentlig, stadgad, duktig), as one of two students of apothecary M. P. Hamberg. On 21 February 1840 he moved to Sperlingens Backe 39 in Hedvig Eleonora parish (probably in the street Biblioteksgatan, between Stureplan and Humlegårdsgatan), where the local priest noted that he was a good and moral christian (god kristendom, hedrande fräjd), but already on 18 April he moved on to Packartorgsgatan 4 (the precursor of the main part of Biblioteksgatan) in Jakob & Johannes parish.

Handbok för brunnsgästerDuring the years 1840-1841 he published the pharmaceutical journal Pharmaceutisk Tidning in Stockholm, and furthermore founded an archive for the manuscript collection Westinska Samlingen which is to be found in the University Library at Uppsala. The Royal Library in Stockholm has kept two letters by Philip sent to the publisher and bookseller Per Gustaf Berg, written 1841-1842, presumably in connection with the publication of his book (thesis?) Handbok för brunnsgäster (i.e. Manual for spa visitors), Vol. 1: Beskrifning öfver Sveriges förnämsta helsobrunnar, ‘Description of Sweden’s most famous spa wells’ icon-external-link, Vol. 2: Handbok för brunnsgäster icon-external-link icon-external-link, inkl. Beskrifning öfver hufvudstadens helsovårds-anstalter, med afseende på vattenläkekonsten).

At this time he lived in the presumably cheap Lower Klara neighbourhood and bore the title Med. Candidat and later Pharm. Candidat. The following year he had moved to the city centre, but in 1850 he acquired a passport for travelling to North America, where he settled in San Francisco, eventually at least.

When his aunt Helena Maria dies in 1856, he is spoken of as the son of age Philip Ahlfort, whose place of residence is unknown, but is assumed to be in America (myndige Sonen Philip Ahlfort, hvars vistelseort är okänd, men förmodas vara i America), and when his youngest sister Anna Lovisa Charlotta dies in 1865, he is said to be abroad (vistas utrikes). One year later, he is buried in plot 37 in the Scandinavian cemetery in San Francisco, presumably unmarried.

Philip’s death 1866 in San Francisco. Source: Familysearch.org.


Research data

  •  name (others’ spellings): Nils Philip (1820-1855); Nils Philip Alfort (1835-1865); Lärl. N. Phil. Alfort (1837); Lärlingen Nils Philipp Ahlfort (1837-1838); Apoth. Eleven N. Ph. Ahlfort (1838); N. Ph. Alfort (1840); Philip Ahlfort (1856); Philip Alfort (1866)
  •  b. Eskilstuna Kloster 1820: v54894.b99.s185
  • icon-male d. San Francisco 1866
  •  hous.ex. 1820-1831;1835-1840 Eskilstuna Kloster: v54754.b65.s55(1820-1822); v54755.b63.s54a(1823-1825); v54756.b67.s55(1826-1828); v54757.b66.s57(1829-1831); Storkyrkoförs.: v90589.b110.s213[1835]; v90642.b46.s39[1836]; Söderhamn: v136888.b26[1837]; v136843.b216.s208(1837-1838); v136888.b30[1838]; Eskilstuna Kloster: v54759.b76.s66(1838-1839); Kungsholm: v87538.b189.s185[1839]; Hedvig Eleonora: v85468.b900.s84[1840]; Jakob och Johannes: v86262.b120.s4[1840]; Kungsholm: v87505.b52.s93(1840)
  •  inh. v147608.b5050.s134(1853); v205255.b1160.s120(1855); v223279.b3830.s67(1856); v147988.b3820.s377(1865)

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