Henry Dunker (1870–1962)

Henry Dunker was a rubber manufacturer who diversified and expanded his business interests and became the richest man in Sweden. He left his fortune to a charitable foundation in Helsingfors.

He was born in Denmark, but when he was a small child the family moved to the port of Helsingborg in Sweden where his father took a job leading construction projects. In 1891, his father founded the rubber company Helsingborg Gummifabrik to make rubber footwear. Henry studied business in Sweden and Germany and joined his father’s company at the age of 21. He solved problems with the quality of the rubber with the help of the Latvian chemist Julius von Gerkan. At the age of 24 he became managing director.

Dunker established the Trelleborg rubber company in southern Sweden with Johan Kock in 1905. Until the end of his life he was the main owner of this company, the Helsingborg company and several other rubber factories. He developed products and distributed them internationally. At the time of his death, in addition to footwear, he manufactured tennis balls, vehicle tyres and hats. He also had interests in banking and chaired Skandinaviska Banken and Sparbanken in Helsingborg. He was on the board of the daily newspaper Helsingborgs Dagblad and a member of the city council.

Dunker and his wife Gerda were known for philanthropy. He provided free healthcare for his workers and day care for their children. In the 1920s he and his wife helped to fund the construction of a concert house for Helsingfors. When he died in 1962 he left his money to set up two charity foundations for projects in Helsingborg. At that time Trelleborg employed 5,000 people. It continues as a global engineering group specialising in polymer technology with 10 per cent of the shares held by the foundation.

Dunker’s Tretorn rubber factory buildings in Helsingborg are now a campus of the University of Lund. His gave his house, Dunkerskan Villain, to become a nursing home.