Carl Ackerlund, blacksmith silhouettist from Minnesota

Virtual Studio Day: 18th April 2021 •

Silhouettes are famous for being black, but very few are actually made by a blacksmith. Carl Ackerlund, from Minnesota, USA was such a man: a blacksmith silhouettist.

As a fan of Carl Ackerlund I run some of my virtual studio days in tribute to this artist. The next will be on 18th April 2021.

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A Swedish artist in America

Carl Ackerlunds label reads: Courtesy of Schunemans and Mannheimers - silhouette by C. Ackerlund

Hand-cut silhouette of Madge, cut by Carl Ackerlund during a department store promotion, 1920s

Carl Ackerlund was a Swedish silhouettist who emigrated to the USA at a young age. He lived in Minnesota for many years before moving to Iowa with his wife Minnie.

Carl tended to give his silhouettes scalloped bust lines (sometimes with a forked tail at the front) and distinctive fronded eyelashes. Both of these stylistic habits make it easy to attribute an unstamped Ackerlund silhouette. However, I’ve never seen such a silhouette. This indicates that he fastidiously stamped all his silhouettes with his name and contact details.

Stamps read: Silhouette by Ackerlund, cut at the Minnesota State Fair

Carl Ackerlund always made sure his silhouettes were stamped wit his contact details

These stamps help build a picture of his working habits. Carl seems to have worked at a variety of state fairs and department stores throughout the 1920s.

Carl A. Ackerlund is listed in the1910 census of St Paul, Ramsey State, Minnesota, which states Sweden as his birthplace. He apparently came to USA in 1903 aged 19, 2 years before his parents and 2 sisters, who followed him 2 years later in 1905.

He may have added a ‘c’ to his original name of Akerlund but the writing in the original census document is not easy to read. Apparently he was a blacksmith by trade, obviously cutting silhouettes in his spare time.

The Minnesota’s newspaper ‘The Peoples’ Choice’ list his death in their obituaries section.

Reverse of card reads: Season's Greetings

A Christmas silhouette cut as a present to customers of McClain and Hedman, St Paul, Minnesota, 1920s

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