Friday, August 14, 2009

Torvald Stranne Research from Roger and Marie

Since writing about Roger and Marie's trip to visit the town that Torvald Stranne lived and worked in, there has been quite a bit of interest from other collectors to post their trip finds. I would like to start with the initial email exchanged last spring between Roger and me.

Roger, Marie and I began corresponding this winter. My initial email congratulated them on their website post, which detailed the findings discovered in the Toulouse books. They had uncovered the makers, and the meaning of a number of marks. We began a very nice exchange across the Atlantic, between kindred glass float spirits.

Our first emails exchanged information about the new form of Swedish floats which were first seen on an auction last summer. This new type of float is a pontil-marked float that had what Roger calls, a "Doorknob," seal and raised neck.

I had just won a 3-float auction from Sweedie, that contained three of those beautiful little floats. Roger was intrigued by them, and told me that he had once seen that style of float at an auction in Sweden-years ago. The first Ebay auction for that style of float was a larger 5.5" amber/green version. I sent Roger a set of comparison photos which showed the larger and the smaller Swedish "Door Knob Necked" floats.

Roger thanked me for the photos and included plans for their July vacation. The exchange starts with my email, followed by Roger's reply:

On Thu, May 7, 2009 at 2:21 PM,

Good Morning Roger,

It's very enjoyable reading your emails, and I want to thank you for sending the link to the Swedish auctions. I will go there one day, and try to use a translator to decipher the language. Just now, there is little free time-hardly time enough to go to the auctions, or send emails off to friends.

After reading your email, I wanted to send you the attached photo. I was the winner of David's first knobbed float, and thought that you might enjoy the comparison. I almost let that first one go, but realized that it had been built on a pontil rod, and was something special. Luckily, I was able to win it.

About a year later, a friend, Caicos Bob, sent me an email with a photo of two small ones that he had purchased from a woman in Sweden. I was elated to know that others were made. David's second auction was an important one to me, and again, I was lucky to win. Now, I have comparisons, and the differences between the floats are very intriguing.

I know that one day you will have at least one example in your collection, and between us, perhaps we can come up with some good information on them. It would be fun to work together on this little project. I look forward to writing on the blog again.

Must run as it's getting late, and I've got work to do filling orders. Kindly say, "Hello," to Maria.


Hello Tom,

Thank you for the photo. We would very much like to use it on our website later if it is ok with you.
I think we will be working together on many float questions in the future, I wish there were more collectors in the south european countries also who could help with information and research, and that we could put our heads together with.
I believe that together we can find out much about them.

We have booked a summer house in Smøgen, Sweden which is the home village of Torvald Stranne. I got in touch with his daughter. Torvald passed away many years ago but she has photos of his bindery that she could show us. The floats were made at a glass works in Smaaland, Sweden. The rest of the history we will hopefully find out when we go there at the end of July. We will look for floats as well:)

Maria is sending greetings to you,

Best Regards,

Immediately after reading the last part of Roger's email, I was struck by how fortunate it is for them to be living where a large part of the Euro float history is. The area where Norway and Sweden share their boarders, and their surnames, truly intrigue me. I often wonder if it is in that area where some of the rarest and oldest glass floats are to be found? There is a constant question in my mind about where the first glass floats were actually blown and used. A couple of nights ago, Todd and I exchanged emails filled with float thoughts about that subject.

I am of the impression that prior to the first commercial production of floats approx. 1841, that floats were already being used. Did Faye actually invent the glass ball? What is his history? Has anyone actually studied the man, and if someone has attempted a study, were they able to find anything historically accurate?

Well, it's about two hours after writing the above sentence. I tried to Google Christopher Faye, found little, and ended up on the road to studying Hadeland glass, where the first commercial floats were made. I've sent a query to the company in the hope that the company has archives which could shed light on the invention by Christopher Faye, and one of the owners of Hadeland Glassverk, Charles Berg., and/or records of glass float production or embossed markings that the company used on their float productions. Who knows? I might get lucky, and if I do, you will see the results of that email.

During the last two hours, I could not help but speculate again on the HV float with the stars surrounding the letters in a circle. Christopher Faye won a gold medal for his glass float invention at the Norwegian Fishery Exposition in 1865. Is it possible that float was one of his displays? That may be pretty farfetched, but both Per and I feel that there is a good chance that float was a display float. HV...Hadeland Glassverk?

Back to Torvald Stranne...

Spring ended; summer started, and we had entered the "Dog Days" of summer. In a conversation with my good friend and renowned collector Bruce, he told me that he had received an email from Maria and Roger. They had returned from their vacation, had found some beautiful colored Torvald Strannes, and were gone again to Moscow.

Curious to know what their experience had been while visiting Torvald's daughter, I sent them an email. Time passed. Then on Wed, Aug 12, 2009 at 12:36 AM, I received this incredible email from Roger. It is so well-written, that nothing needs to be added. With Roger and Marie's permission, here is Roger's email.

Hi Tom,

Finally there is time to reply to you.

We just came home from Moscow, where we visited Maria's family.

It's been a very nice stay with good food and weather (a way better weather than it was in Norway or the west coast of Sweden - very windy in there).
But we had a very nice stay in Sweden with new float discoveries :)

The first thing we did before reaching Smøgen, was to stop by Bohuslen museum, where according to Stranne's daughter, the information about Torvald Stranne's business is kept. There are the archives, but there was no one working at the archives department at that moment, due to summer vacation. In a museum display there was a fishing net with beautiful small roller pins attached to it, as well as a big ruby red Torvald Stranne float, maybe of the 6" size.

We were browsing antique and second-hand stores in Smøgen and nearby villages, but there was not much to find, and when we inquired about glass floats, the answer was that there used to be very many floats, but the summer tourists were buying them as decoration.

Anyway we were lucky to find some small treasures in Smøgen and Kungshamn, a JA with the fish, amber L (the one without dots), a clear Torvald Stranne and one unmarked float with very thick glass that looks like it is all black.
The clear Torvald float was new to me, and it really looks used.

I called Margitt, Torvald Stranne's daughter, as we earlier informed her about our arrival, and she invited us to her home. Margitt is an amazingly nice 79 year old lady. She showed us true swedish hospitality.

She served us her homemade rhubarb pie with ice cream and coffee, while showing us some photos of her father's store and business in Smøgen. She couldn't tell us any particular dates regarding the business, but we found out that her brother (who passed away) gave all the documents of Torvald's business to the Bohuslen museum. We will be able to find out the dates, etc. a little later when the summer vacation at the archives department is over.

She told us that her father, Evald Yngve Torvald Stranne was born on 29/9-1898 and passed away in the year 1972.

Margitt believes that the business started in the 1920's and ended in the '60's. She said that summer tourists were buying glass floats from Stranne's store to be used as decorational objects in the end. I asked if these floats were made for decorational use only, but she did not know for sure. She said she knew that the floats were made at one of the glassworks in Smaaland, Sweden.

Margitt brought a basket filled with floats to show us, and there were different Torvald Stranne floats in various colours: ruby red, purple, cobalt blue, green, yellow and clear. The yellow one was another new discovery. These floats were from 3-5".

She had 2 other examples in her collection after her father, that were 2-5" with the 'door knob'. This must be our rarest discovery ever. Of course we offered her a nice sum for them, but she did not want to sell these ones at the moment, She let us purchase the clear and the yellow Torvald Stranne floats, both 3".

In the end Margitt invited us to her garage where she stores more floats after her father, and there were Torvald Stranne floats up to 6" in red, cobalt blue, light blue, purple and amber.

The light blue and amber ones were very rare to come across. We had seen such colored floats at an auction once.

She also has 10" Wilhelmshutte floats and 8" Made in Czheckoslovakia in her posession. The 10" W float is also a new finding for us.

Margitt was so kind to let us pick some floats to buy from her.

We also asked if she knew anything about Stranne & Oresten. All she could tell was that these were relatives from Gothenburg. So the Stranne Oresten company was something that Torvald was not a part of.

When our week stay in Smøgen was over, we decided to drive along the coast back to Norway, searching for more floats, and we found something in Strømstad, a town near the Norwegian border: a clear L, clear Albrechtsons and another amber L float with old hemp net on it.

We are very happy with the trip, and Smøgen was a fantastic place worth visiting.

We have purchased lately some new additions to our collection: a Japanese float about 12" across with a beautiful old net, a UV, G, JMS and WD.

Attaching some photos to this email. Enjoy.

Best Regards,
Roger and Maria

What a wonderful email! There is so much there to cogitate over. The history of Torvald Stranne's two stores, the floats seen and found-including the newly discovered colors of these wonderful floats, getting to "know" his daughter Margitt a bit, and simply, the reading of this well-written email, fills me with questions, speculation and excitement for future discoveries within Torvald's papers being kept at the Bohuslen Museum.

As I think about what Roger wrote, the question of whether the Torvald Stranne floats were true working floats or Contemporaries comes to mind. It is very interesting that Margitt said that tourists were buying Torvald's floats for decorations before the business closed in the 1960's. This coincides very well with the "sea forms" decorating scheme prevelent in the 1960's, as well as the production of Contemporary floats by glassmakers worldwide.

Roger also writes of his finding a colorless Torvald Stranne that "really looks used." This too can be an indication that not only were Contemporary floats used for decoration, they were also used for net fishing and the marking of lobster pots and fish traps. The Hokuyo Double F's, the Made in Czechoslovakia's, bright green Americans, Squares and now, Torvald Stranne floats have been found with the "well used" look.

Is it possible that the Torvald Stranne floats' appearances coincide with the passing on of family possessions as time and people have passed? Could that explain why they have begun to appear on Ebay auctions in the last 3-4 years and not earlier? Does anyone know of Torvald Stranne floats being bought or traded prior to 2005?

Before I close this post, I would like to describe the photos-starting at the top:

1. Torvald Stranne's first store advertising fishing gear and hardware;
2. Margitt's table top full of Torvalds and the two Door Knobs;
3. Smogen today down by the water;
4. The Light Yellow Torvald Stranne;
5. Torvald's second store;
6. Torvald's first store and,
3. Torvald's daughter, Margitt.

In closing, there will be more collaborations between Roger, Maria, myself and everyone else caught up in this historically-maritime passion. I would imagine that all of the readers and collectors who are seeing and reading about the wonderful new colors existent in Torvald Stranne floats, are fervently hoping that one or more will join their collections. I know that I am! Thank you so much Roger and Marie for sharing the wonderful story of your vacation with us.


Hi again Tom!

We are very glad to be useful with our discoveries and appreciate your friendship very much.

Have a nice weekend!
Best Regards,
Roger & Maria


  1. Hi Tom,

    Very interesting reading from Torvald Stranne family, you all have done a fantastic job, I love the pictures too!
    Smøgen is a beautiful place and well known among Swedish, Danish, German and Norwegians to have a summer vacation.
    I was visiting Smøgen for approx 20 years ago and before my float interest, to bad ;-)

    Per and Amund