Alexander Keiller (1804–74)

Alexander Keiller was born in Dundee, Scotland, to the family who successfully established the Keiller brand of marmalade, but he achieved success in another country and in other industries. At the age of 21 he moved to Göteberg where his family had links with the timber trade, and in 1828-29 set up a mill spinning flax and hemp, trades well-established in his native Dundee. Within a year he employed 71 workers. He took out patents for machines used in preparing flax and hemp, and continued in the textile trade until 1839.

In 1832 he formed a partnership with William Gibson (1783-1857), the son of an sailmaker from Arbroath who settled in Göteborg  in 1797 and prospered in the timber trade during the Napoleonic Wars. They invested in an estate around Jonsered Manor which is now part of the city’s university, and established Jonsered Fabriker, a textiles and engineering company. Keiller lived there for a time but left in 1839, while the Gibson family remained there for more than a century. The engineering works produced steam engines, turbines and railway equipment. Göteborg was Sweden’s commercial gateway to Western Europe, and Keiller prospered both from his manufacturing enterprises and by trading in timber. His company built its first ship in 1847 and he subsequently became involved in Götaverken, the city’s principal shipyard, whose growth after his retirement in 1868 was due largely to his sons Alexander (1832-1918 ) Keiller and James Keiller (1836-1918).