The story of Kosta begins in 1742, more than 250 years ago. Two of King Charles XII’s bodyguards, highly regarded for their contributions in war, were each granted positions as county governor, one in Växjö and the other in Kalmar. These two men were charged by King Frederick I to found Kosta Glassworks in 1742. It opened on July 25 of that year.
The site of the new glassworks was the geographical point midway between the cities. There was plenty of wood there with which to fire the furnaces. The sand used for the molten glass in the 18th century was so-called ”backsand” extracted from sandpits. Otherwise glass sand of finer quality was imported from Denmark, Germany and France.
Kosta derived its name by combining the first letters from the surnames of the founders themselves, Anders Koskull and Georg Bogislaus Stael von Holstein, to form Ko-Sta. In time the entire community was referred to by the name of the growing glassworks. Window glass, bottles and tableware for the royal household, candlesticks for churches and manors – that accounted for most production during the first 150 years.
The first glassblowers were masters immigrating from German Bohemia. They had mastered the occupational know-how that for generations was passed along from father to son. Under the direction of masters from Kosta, one glass blowing room after another emerged in the forests around Kosta as time went on.
Industrialisation, increased construction and higher living standards for more people led to increasing demand for glass. During the second half of the 19th century, more than 100 years after Kosta began, the majority of Sweden’s glassworks were founded – many of them with the help of masters and glassblowers from Kosta, which became known as ”the mother works within the Swedish glass industry”.
Until the end of the 19th century, glass at Kosta was designed by the glass workers themselves or by the purchasers. At the 1897 Stockholm Fair the glassworks were criticised for their uniformity, which gave rise to thoughts about integrating designers into the production process. The first designer associated with Kosta was Gunnar G:son Wennerberg in 1898. Ever since a large number of designers have enriched the works’ glass tradition, a tradition that designers and artisans are continuously evolving.
In addition to the Kosta mother glassworks, the contemporary Kosta Boda also consists today of the Boda and Åfors glassworks. This collaboration was initiated in 1964.
The oldest worker residences
Here at Kosta the first worker residences were erected as early as the 1750s. Many of them still exist today, and you can see them on both sides of the northern entry road. During the 19th century three or four families lived in these small cottages! They each had only one room with a stove in the room and one larder each in the common vestibule. Families had one room, regardless of how many children they had. In addition, the family often was enlarged during the week with boys who worked in the blowing room and ”kostkarlar” (bachelors who needed a place to eat), who contributed money for food. It is very difficult for us to visualise that situation today, with the increase in housing standards that evolved in Sweden during the 20th century.
All of the cottages had names of their own: Nineveh, Jerusalem, Påfelund, Bethlehem, Tellelund, Babylon, Snettin and White Brook. It is not known for certain why these names were chosen, but probably they owe their origin to folk humour. It has been observed that the glass workers liked to entertain one another with jokes. Of course, they also lived very close to one another since they occupied such compact quarters and worked in the same place. All had their own household pig and potato patch. Some small sheds and earth cellars remain today as mementos of this period. Doors of the houses open on the backyard. It is believed this was done because the glassworks did not want pig food, slop buckets, boots and other untidiness to be visible from the road. Another amusing detail is the small windows in the gables. All of the houses are private residences today. You are welcome to look at them from the road