Augusta Jansson established a successful confectionery and retail business in Stockholm. The company supplied the Royal Court and were famous for their hard toffee called Tjong.
Augusta Jansson was born in Järn, Dalsland in 1859. She was born into a working-class family with precarious finances. Her father, Jan Magnus Andreasson (sometimes written Andersson), was a labourer who did a variety of agricultural labour jobs. Her mother, Maja Katarina Ersdotter, gave birth to around ten children, two of which were twins, namely Augusta Jansson and her twin sister Sofia. When the twins were four years old the family moved to Nyköping as their father had obtained work at the estate Stora Kungsladugården. Sofia died the following year. As the years passed Augusta Jansson gained several new siblings but nothing is known as to whether they attended school or how their lives panned out.
In 1882, when Augusta Jansson’s father was 60 years old and no longer able to work, the family ended up at the poorhouse in Skogstorp. By then Augusta Jansson had already left home by and started working. In 1874, when she was 15, she began working as a maid at the Sättersta estate. Three years later she began to work as a shop assistant for a merchant in Broberg, and yet another couple of years later she was working for an inspector in Tunaberg. It is likely that her previous experiences served her well when, in 1880, she like so many others headed to Stockholm to improve her situation.
It did not take the young Augusta Jansson long to find her own niche in the nation’s capital. Towards the end of the 1880s and the early 1900s confectioneries formed a prominent element of women’s enterprises, usually undertaken as a cottage industry. Augusta Jansson taught herself how to make candy in one of Södermalm’s many cellar factories and then opened her own establishment at Styrmansgatan 35. Initially her products primarily comprised cough sweets as well as almond- and coconut pieces. These were sold by female street-sellers who were part of everyday life in the Stockholm town centre. These women were particularly visible on Sundays, when they lined the popular promenade areas such as at Humlegården and Djurgården, carrying large baskets affixed to yokes across their shoulders.
Augusta Jansson had ambitions for her sweets and rapidly expanded her business. She was thus able to hire two of her younger sisters. Helena Andersson arrived in Stockholm in 1888 and in 1893 the two sisters opened their own shop at Linnégatan 67. The shop and its products were very popular and in 1898 their youngest sister Signe, who had adopted the surname of Andrée, joined them in the business. Signe Andrée became the public face of the shop, as she handled the packaging and retail side of the business whilst Augusta Jansson ran the production. The year before Signe had joined the business Augusta Jansson had been involved in the Stockholm exhibition with her sweets and gained such a good reputation that she not only began to supply the Royal Court but sometimes members of the royal family even visited her shop in person. Augusta Jansson has therefore, with reason, been called the un-crowned queen of candy.
Cinematography was introduced to Stockholm at the time of the Stockholm exhibition in 1897. As the popularity of cinemas grew — and access to sugar improved —Swedish consumption of candies rose exponentially during the first decade of the 1900s. Female-run cottage industries such as confectioneries consequently benefited from this continual rise in demand. At the same time they fell under the harsh regulations imposed by laws on overtime and night-time working hours for women, in force from 1909 to 1962. Augusta Jansson appears not to have had any difficulty in keeping her own confectionery going. In fact, following the end of the First World War she was able to employ several shop assistants. The fact that strict laws regarding night-time working hours were not always adhered to was illustrated by contemporary Stockholm accounts of the backdoor of the confectionery shop often being left half-open late at night so that theatre and cinema visitors who were headed home at night could slip in to buy a portion of candies.
Augusta Jansson is perhaps best known to posterity for her Tjong toffee. This was a hard toffee, sometimes including ginger, made from a sugar-based mixture which was then worked in the same way as Amalia Eriksson’s ‘polkagris’, a Swedish peppermint stick candy. A wide variety of toffees were produced, up to 100 different sorts. Many of these, such as punch-flavoured pralines, coconut balls, sour drops, and ‘hangölakrits’ are familiar to modern candy lovers. Others are less so, such as ‘lingonkuddar’ (lingonberry pillows), chocolate onions, Spanish pears, ‘skarpskyttar’ (marksmen), wolves’ teeth, and jockey hats (marzipan dipped in caramel). Perhaps most unfamiliar to today’s candy lovers are names such as turpentine caramels, which were considered to be good for chest infections. Most of the sweets were sold all year round whilst some, such as ‘äppelklubbor’ (apple sticks) were entirely seasonal.
Neither Augusta Jansson nor her other two sisters ever married as the laws of that time, along with the gender limitations of the era, would have meant that she would have lost the right to own her business. Augusta Jansson’s pride in her business is apparent in her frequently repeated motto: “My candies should be bedded on silver trays and look like beautiful butterflies”. She was particular about the quality of both the products and their presentation and about the shop service. For example, it took months to prepare the popping caramels for Christmas, which came in hand-crushed silken paper.
Augusta Jansson died in 1932. She left her shop to her sister Signe Andrée, who successfully continued the business until her own death in 1963. Thereafter the shop ceased trading but, in 2018, the brand name of Augusta Jansson’s candy production was resuscitated. Nowadays the company, no longer in the family’s ownership, is based in Uppsala/Sigtuna. Many of Augusta Jansson’s original recipes have been brought back into use. The range is sold at fairs and markets as well as from a shop which uses signage entirely in the spirit of the un-crowned queen of candy.
Augusta Jansson and her sisters, Helena Andersson and Signe Andrée, are all buried in the same grave, along with their fourth sister, Emma Eugenia Berggren, and her family, at the Northern Cemetery in Solna.