Saltpeter Collector (Salpetersjudare) Important job for manufacturing gunpowder

saltpeter1Krigskollegium Artilleridepartementet F2a:2 (1764-1804) Image 212 (AID: v50440.b212, NAD: SE/KrA/0003) Link.

Occasionally at conferences in North America, a customer has asked,” I have an ancestor who was a salpetersjudare?  What is that occupation?” It is a saltpeter collector or sometimes referred to as saltpeter maker.

As the Swedish army increasingly used rifles and cannons, there was a great need for gunpowder. Gunpowder consisted of 75% saltpeter. Large concentrations of saltpeter were found in the soil under farm buildings and stables. Since saltpeter was so important in the production of gunpowder, it came to be that the soil under many farm buildings was declared to be royal property. In the beginning the farmers collected and delivered the saltpeter themselves, but soon a new profession was created, saltpeter collectors.

The saltpeter collectors traveled around to the farms and dug up the floors of the barns or stables and collected the soil and then boiled and seethed it for about six or seven days. Then the pure saltpeter was transported to the gunpowder factory where gunpowder was produced.

In the series Krigskollegium Artilleridepartementet, there are three volumes with muster rolls for the saltpeter collectors or makers (salpetersjudarna) from 1693 – 1805. These muster rolls are organized in the same way as the ones for cavalrymen and soldiers.

To search for these archives enter the search words: Krigskollegium Artilleridepartementet in the search box.

The image at the top of the page is the muster roll for the saltpeter collectors of Skåne and Blekinge counties. The mustering was held on the 29th of April 1778.

salpeter2Krigskollegium Artilleridepartementet F2a:1 (1693-1757) Image 92 (AID: v50439.b92, NAD: SE/KrA/0003) Link.

Sometimes you will find more information about a person who was a saltpeter collector. In the above image you see in the third row Anders Erichsson from Lerdala parish in Skaraborg county. He was born in 1699 and became a saltpeter collector in 1721. On the right side there is a note giving more information about him.

Siuk af et hug i wänstra knäet och bewitnades af des Cammerater at wara oduglig. Recommenderas till afskied, medan han och intet kunnat giöra något arbete för åhr 1726.

Disabled by a stab in the left knee and testimony by his comrades stated that he was unfit. Recommended for discharge, meanwhile he wasn’t able to work in 1726.

Read blog entry in Swedish.

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