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Here are some Carlson stories and accounts over the years:

Carlsons, Karlssons and Karlsens Today

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John Carlson, California Pioneer

In 1843, at the age of sixteen, John Carlson left his home in Sweden and began his seafaring life.  He based himself in California, first sailing to Rio de Janeiro, then to China, and then to Panama.

In 1852 he departed San Francisco and headed up the coast to Big River in Mendocino county.  He sailed as a seaman with the opportunity of working at the mill, the machinery for which was on board the vessel.  He remained at work there at various employments for a term of six years.

In 1857 he started in the hotel business.  In 1870 his hotel, uninsured, was totally destroyed by fire.  Undeterred, he had built a new hotel and soon outgrew his loss.  It was said that he so well-known and liked along the coast, and in fact all over the country, that a stranger would be told to go to his hotel for the best of accommodations.

Swan Carlson in Kansas

Swan Carlson was only nineteen when he came to America in 1869 with his parents and settled in Kansas.

He soon found work during the construction of the Union Pacific Railroad and for nine years was engaged chiefly in railroad labor.  In 1871, after just two years in Kansas, he took up a homestead some two miles north of the present town of Falun in Saline county.  That farm was to be his place of residence for the next forty-five years.

Over that time he had acquired all those things which men of ambition most desire.  He had bought land front time to time until he was the owner of more than 2,000 acres, making him one of the largest landowners in Saline county.

However, his death was premature.  On August 7, 1916 he was driving a hay rake when the horse ran away.  In falling his skull was fractured and he died.  He left behind a wife, five sons and three daughters

Frank Carlson, Kansas Farmer

In a 1983 interview, Senator Carlson said that he had never intended to enter politics. But in 1928, while he was busy harvesting wheat at his farm, a group of friends came to his farm and asked permission to file his name as a candidate for the state legislature.

"I told them I didn't have time to fool with that," he remembered. "They assured me I wouldn't have to worry, that I wouldn't be elected."

They were wrong.  Between 1928 and 1968, he ran for office thirteen times and was victorious in every election.

After leaving politics, Senator Carlson and his wife Alice went home to the 500-acre family farm near Concordia.  For more than a decade after leaving office, he could be seen driving a tractor, plowing a field or baling hay.  He died in 1987 at the age of ninety-four.

Curt Carlson and His Trading Stamp Venture

Curt Carlson was the son of a Swedish immigrant who became a neighborhood grocer in Minneapolis in the early 1900ís.

He was a golf caddy at nine, had his first newspaper route at eleven and quickly added two others. He also operated a newsstand at a busy intersection, worked his way through college driving a soft-drink truck and engaged in a little light loansharking.  He would lend cash-strapped tellers $5 on a Friday and collect $6 on payday the following Monday.

At a time when some local department stores were seeking to assure repeat business by giving customers Security Red trading stamps exchangeable for premiums, Curt Carlson realized that such stamps would be ideal for grocery stores, whose identical products left them little room to distinguish themselves from the pack.

Acting on his vision, Carlson created the Gold Bond Stamp Company in 1938, with a $55 loan and a bit of skulduggery:  He paid a department store secretary $10 for a copy of the Security Red Stamp master contract.  This became his blueprint.

The idea was that a grocer would pay Mr. Carlson $14.50 for stamps that could be exchanged for products that cost $10 wholesale but had a much higher retail value. That made the stamps attractive to the grocer and to the store's customers, but not at first glance to Carlson, whose $4.50 spread would barely cover costs and overhead.

The magic of the business was that while the grocer would pay for the stamps as they were issued, it might be months before customers accumulated enough stamps to redeem them and some would not be redeemed at all, leaving Mr. Carlson with the float - the use of the money - for other investments.

The trick was to sell the program to enough stores to create a sizable float.  But as a salesman, Curt Carlson - who married his college sweetheart, Arlene Martin about the time he started the business - was shameless. To draw attention to his program he had his wife dress up in an eye-catching drum majorette uniform and march through prospective stores extolling the glories of Gold Bond stamps.  

By 1941 he had signed up two hundred accounts.  But shortages created by World War Two made sales incentives superfluous and for a while he had to take a job with his father-in-law's clothing business.

Carlson was the first entrepreneur to develop a loyalty program for the grocery chain through the issuance of trading stamps. What began as a simple loyalty program for grocers in the Midwest grew after World War Two into one of the largest service providers of frequent shopper/buyer programs across a variety of retail and hospitality sectors.

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