Carl Ahlteen, spelled Althén in Swedish, came to America from Grimslöv in Småland in southern Sweden soon after the General Strike. According to Michael Brook, Ahlteen prided himself on his hardness and realism, always insisting that the workers must fight for themselves. Power and power alone must be the motto of the working class, Ahlteen writes in Allarm in June 1916, and when the worker wakes up, the time has come when “our comrades once again can breathe freely.” Back in Sweden, Ahlteen’s political and union activities faded, and it is possible that Ahlteen again left Sweden in the 1930s and that he died in Colombia soon after World War II.
Ragnar Johanson was a prominent syndicalist before leaving for America in 1912. Called “a silver tongued orator,” he frequently wrote for Allarm and became a leading itinerant agitator for IWW among Swedish immigrants in America. Once back in Sweden he continued his syndicalist activities and was for many years a manager at the syndicalist publishing house Federativ. He died in 1959.
Sigfrid Stenberg, born in Stora Tuna in the province of Dalarna in 1892, worked in the lumber industry and as a painter before coming to America in 1912. He was Allarm’s business manager until his arrest in 1917. The evidence on which Stenberg’s conviction was based was a telegram he wrote that said in Swedish, “Sänd Allarm”—meaning “Send Allarm,” the paper—which the prosecutor translated as “Send all weapons.” Stenberg also continued his union activities in Sweden. He joined SAC, the Swedish syndicalist organization, and worked as a journalist at SAC’s newspaper Arbetaren until his death in 1942, at the age of fifty.
The three, Engdahl writes in “My Life,” “were intelligent, honest, and idealistic. They had the courage to follow their inner light regardless of consequences.”
After Allarm ceased publishing, Engdahl started writing for other newspapers and periodicals, often about culture, literature, music, and poetry. He wrote for Henry Bengston’s Svenska Socialisten (the Swedish Socialist) in Chicago, the organ of the Scandinavian Socialist Federation, founded in 1910 in Chicago and which had at its height over thirty-seven hundred members, mostly Swedes. He wrote for Bokstugan (the Book Cabin), a literary magazine and official organ of the Verdandi Study League, also in Chicago, started in 1919 by Wallentin Wald, a young painter from Engdahl’s Young Socialists Club in Stockholm who had left for America after serving a prison sentence for distributing pacifist leaflets in Stockholm. At Bokstugan, Wald surrounded himself with a group of enthusiastic literary contributors, among them Engdahl. They were not academically trained, but they were all “serious thinkers and well able to express themselves in both verse and prose.” Bengston said Bokstugan, which published articles in both Swedish and English, “reached a, by far, higher literary standard than any of its Swedish contemporaries in the United States.” September 1928 was its last issue. Wald died in 1946. Later, between 1958 and 1969, Engdahl was a frequent contributor to Kulturarvet (Swedish Heritage), also edited by Bengston and published by the Swedish Cultural Society of America, which elected Engdahl its chairman in 1964. Engdahl also wrote a regular column for the Minne- apolis Labor Review and showed great fondness for early progressive Swedish American politicians in Minnesota, such as Magnus Johnson and Charles A. Lindbergh Sr.
Parallel to writing, Engdahl worked as a carpenter, was active in the Twin Cities Carpenters’ Union No. 7 in Minneapolis, and was secretary of the Twin City Carpenters’ District Council. He also joined the American Federation of Labor (AFL). In a speech on the local radio station WCCO on May 8, 1931, published that day in the Minneapolis Tribune, Engdahl makes a strong case for the working man and for organized labor “to make this world a better place to live in.” He said the “day is at hand when people will understand our motives. The day is at hand when through our effort there shall come an era of happiness such as the world has never seen before, when the morning sun shall shine upon the smiling faces of our children who, in turn, shall dedicate their lives to preserve the cause of liberty, justice and equality which the workers, through endless struggle and sacrifice have won for them.”
In the early 1930s, Engdahl joined the Farmer-Labor Party and held several positions in Governor Floyd B. Olson’s administrations. Until the mid-1950s, Engdahl was in charge of the construction and mainte- nance of the public welfare buildings in Minneapolis. Governor Olson also named him the first union representative of organized labor on the building commission for a new office building. When Engdahl was unable to prevent the commission from setting the pay scale 20 percent below union wages, he went to Olson ready to hand in his resignation. But the governor refused to accept it, and at a meeting to decide on the wages, Olson, according to Engdahl’s account in “My Life,” gave “one of the most factual and forceful speeches I have ever heard. When he was through, the chairman stated, ‘Gentlemen, you have just heard one of the greatest speeches by the greatest governor in the USA supporting the proposition of establishing the union scale as the prevailing scale on our office building. It is up to you to decide what to do.’” The motion to pay union scale carried.
“We had a great governor,” Engdahl writes. “We did not realize the magnitude of the man.” In his interview with Lennart Setterdahl, Engdahl said that “Olson would have been a good president. There was no speaker like him. He was radical, but clever.”