History of Akerlund
Presentation to the Annandale History Club
May 3, 2004
Mike Worcester, Director of the Cokato Museum, presented a very enjoyable slide presentation of examples of photography from the Gust Akerlund Photography Studio in Cokato. Akerlund took photos in Cokato from 1902 to 1953. There are 10,500 5x7 glass plates, 800 8x16 glass plates and
2,300 other negatives at the studio. 1,500 of the plates were recycled during WWII for silver nitrate to be used in the war effort. Many members of the Annandale History Club have had family photos or confirmation pictures taken at the Akerlund Studio. Those of us who have Akerlund photographs of our ancestors are very pleased with the quality of the photos, some of which are over 100 years old.
Akerlund stayed more than fifty years, chronicling life in Cokato. He photographed school classes, sports teams, babies, children, families, baptisms, first communions, confirmation classes, weddings, funerals and typical street scenes. Sometimes he'd go for drives in the country to take photos.
The studio is the only one of its kind in Minnesota. The building, furniture, flooring, equipment and camera are original. After Gust Akerlund's death in 1954, his widow continued to live in the adjoining apartment until 1983. Esther Akerlund and son, Ted, left the studio just as it was for thirty years after Gust Akerlund's death and in 1984 donated it intact to the Cokato Museum for restoration. Esther Akerlund died in 1985. There was a grand opening of the restored studio in 1986. Akerlund Studio has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1976. The building that presently houses the Cokato Museum, Cokato Public Library and the Community Room was built adjacent to the Akerlund Studio in 1976.
Gust Akerlund was born August 6, 1872, in Vasternorrland, Sweden. He immigrated to the U.S. and settled in Merrill, Wisconsin, where he became a photography apprentice. He became a U.S. citizen in 1900 and purchased the Fred Hanson Photography Studio in Cokato in 1902. In 1905 he moved the Hanson Studio to the corner of Fourth Street and Broadway Avenue (its present location) and added a 12-foot skylight on the north wall. Akerlund married Esther Hanson of Dassel in 1927 when he was in his mid-50s. Their son, Ted, was born when Akerlund was 62 years old. In 1935, a small apartment was added to the rear of the studio, where the family lived. Akerlund took photographs part-time until 1953. He died January 21, 1954, at age 81, in Cokato.
The Cokato Museum and Akerlund Studio's website is http://www.cokatomuseum.org/
Notes by Secretary, Annandale History Club