From machine shop to independent elevator company
In 1908, when Finland was still an autonomous Grandy Duchy of the Russian Empire, a machine shop named Tarmo (“vigor”) opened in Helsinki. Tarmo’s owners, who repaired and reconditioned used equipment, incorporated their business as KONE (“machine”) Ltd. on October 27, 1910 and then sold their shares to Gottfrid Strömberg, Finland’s leading producer of electric motors and equipment. Strömberg also imported and installed Graham Brothers elevators from Sweden.
KONE moved into the former stables on Strömberg’s industrial estate and began refurbishing and selling previously owned Strömberg motors under the KONE name. In 1912, Lorenz Petrell, head of Strömberg’s elevator department, became managing director of KONE, a position he would hold until 1932. One of his first decisions was to move KONE to larger quarters in Helsinki.
During WWI, demand for weapons and ammunition (KONE produced over 10 million brass shell casings for the Russian army) grew KONE’s revenues, and the number of employees ballooned from 10 to 600. Not many elevators were sold between 1912 and 1916, however, as the war and the strains it placed on Finland’s economy brought construction to a virtual halt.
In 1916, Walter Jakobsson joined KONE as technical director. A year later, Finland declared its independence from Russia, and KONE ended the licensing agreement with Graham Brothers. Strömberg’s entire elevator department joined KONE, and Lorenz Petrell, Walter Jakobsson, William Puomi, and Gotthard Dahlberg set out to fulfill a dream: to produce and sell a European-class Finnish elevator.