A Snapshot of Mansfield in 1926: An Immigrant’s Album

In 1926 Georg Nillsen became an American.  He sailed across the ocean from Sweden because he believed there was a wonderful and exciting new life for him in the United States.

With his name reconfigured in English to George Nelson, he wound up in Mansfield working at the Steel Mill.  He was so thrilled with this new world he borrowed a camera and used up a roll of film snapping pictures of his town to send to family and friends back in Göteborg.

It was 84 years later in 2000, some years after George had departed this Earthly plane, when his daughter, Anna Marie Nelson McCracken, made a trip back across the Atlantic to explore the Swedish roots of her father. 

She found an old aunt still living in Göteborg, and when they spoke of the United States the aunt seemed to know all about Mansfield.  She still had all the photos that Georg had sent from America.

So once again these little snapshots made the trip across the Atlantic, back to Mansfield where they began.

This small album preserves for us a perfect snapshot of our town through the eyes of a young man in love with Mansfield, America.

George carefully photographed the 1926 Memorial Day parade on South Main so that his home appeared in the background. The postcard below captured North Main during the same time period.

George posed in front of his favorite North Main St landmark: the Coney Island Restaurant. Though this building doesn’t exist any more, the Coney in this photo, established in 1919, was the direct forebear of the current Coney Island Diner just north of Fourth Street.

In 1926 when George was showing off his new town, the Square was defended by four huge Civil War cannon pointed to the cardinal directions. Today the cannon are across the street, protecting the Courthouse lawn.

Did George miss the snows of Sweden…or did he just want the folks back home to know he hadn’t entirely left his winter heritage behind.

It is interesting to note that he often found ways to include an American flag somewhere in the photos he sent to Sweden.

This picture was taken at the confluence of Routes 42 and 430 just east of the underpass.

Georg proudly photographed the steel mill where he worked as a welder in 1926. In later years, he went on to establish his own welding business on Fifth Street. The mill today no longer looks much like his photo.

When Georg Nillson worked there in 1926, the name over the main office read, The Mansfield Sheet & Tin Plating Co. Look closely and the building still bears the same title today, though it has grown a new wing and changed names a number of times since then.

As an enthusiastic immigrant, George warmly embraced American holidays new to him, including Memorial Day.

His photos taken in the Mansfield cemetery captured the public amphitheater in its more pristine early years. Below, the same scene is captured 90 years later.

In Memory:

This precious glimpse into the past is presented through the kindness of my friend Anna Marie Nelson McCracken (1935-2008)

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