Malling-Hansen's last walk

Rasmus Malling-Hansen spent the last night of his life here at the free mason lodge in Klerkegade 2, Copenhagen. RMH was a member of the lodge called "Frederik and Zorobabel to the Crowned Hope" since 1877. This old printing belongs to The Royal Library
The last portrait of RMH, taken the same year as he died, only 55 years old. But he looked like a much older man. Photo: Private
Some of RMH's closest friends during the last part of his life were members of the same lodge as him. Erik Ritzau, 1839-1904, founder of Ritzau's Bureau. Photo: The Royal Library
It is likely that RMH met with some or all of these men during his last visit at the free mason lodge. Edgar Collin, 1836-1907, journalist and historian. He wrote the history of the lodge. Photo: The Royal Library
Gustav Feilberg, 1836-1936, captain. RMH also new his brother, Ludvig Feilberg very well. Photo: The Royal Library
Johannes Kaper, 1838-1906 was the leading man of the lodge from 1896 until 1904. Photo: The Royal Library
Also member was shipping ingenieer Johannes Prior, 1840-1896, son of the famous founder of the first steam ship line between Copenhagen and Oslo, HP Prior. His three grandsons Cay, Eric and Viggo Prior were all very good friends of one of RMH's daughters, Johanne Agerskov, and very dedicated spokesmen for Johanne Agerskov's book, Toward the Light.
Rasmus Malling-Hansen on a private photo from 1887. The photo is digitally prosessed.
The symbol of the lodge "Frederik and Zorobabel to the Crowned Hope", which was established in 1745

The most detailed description of what happened on the night of Rasmus Malling-Hansen’s death is found in an obituary printed in the Danish newspaper, ”Politiken” the day after – on the 28th of September 1890:



“Yesterday evening at 10.30 some people who was coincidentally passing in Borgergade, noticed that a well dressed gentleman wavered and fell to the ground. When a couple of young people who was conversing on the other side of the street, run to him, they found that he was dead.



The physician who was called, Dr. Breuning Storm, could only ascertain that the death had already occurred and arranged for the body to be carried into the house of “Underbaadsmand Knudsen”, who lives on the corner of Borgergade and Leopardlængen. Already before this a gentleman who came to the place had recognized the deceased. It was Malling-Hansen, the inventor of the Writing Ball, and author of “Periods in the Growth of Children and the Heat of the Sun”.



The police of “Nyboder” let, when the identity of the body was confirmed by an identity card found in the breast pocket, a station sergeant drive out to the Institute for the Deaf-Mutes where he in the gentlest way delivered to Mrs. Malling-Hansen the message of her husbands death. One can easily imagine her sudden despair. The porter of the Institute thereafter followed to Borgergade, and carried, by the help of to sergeants the body home with him in a wagon.”


On a similar autumn evening more than 100 years later, in November 2009, Jørgen Malling Christensen, who actually is related to Malling-Hansen's brother, Johan Frederik Hansen, brought with him his camera and followed in the footsteps of Malling-Hansen. Underneath you can see the same views as those who met Malling-Hansen on his last walk.



Two maps showing the Nyboder area, where RMH made the very last walk of his life, on a dark September evening in 1890. The map above shows the streets and their names as they were in 1890. The blue line shows RMH's route from Klerkegade to Leopardlængen
The second map is from our time, and as one can see, many of the streets are changed and have new names. Balsamgade, Ulvegade and Bryggerlængen are now called Olfert Fischers Gade. Tulipangade, Elephantgade and Leopardlængen are now Suensons Gade. An interesting detail worth noticing is that the royal Institute for the Deaf-Mutes previously was situated in Sølvgade, which can also be seen om the map
Klerkegade 2, the former masonic lodge, seen from the corner of Adelgade/Klerkegade. Nowadays the building is housing the Musicology Department. Photo: Jørgen Malling Christensen
Main entrance of the building in Klerkegade 2 (architect Vilhelm Tvede(1826-1891), who was responsible many beautiful buildings around in Denmark. Photo: Jørgen Malling Christensen
Close-up of the entrance to the former masonic lodge, Klerkegade 2, showing the year of construction, 1868. Photo: Jørgen Malling Christensen
When RMH came out of the the building, he went in direction toward the photografer, turned left (to the right right seen from the viewers point), and went straight up Borgergade. Photo: Jørgen Malling Christensen
Walking north, RMH passed this building on the corner of Borgergade/Fredericiagade. Photo: Jørgen Malling Christensen
Almost all of the buildings along Borgergade are intact since RMH's lifetime; corner Borgergade/Fredericiagade; start of the Nyboder area. This part of Nyboder was constructed in the period 1886-1893 - we therefore know that RMH was passing a busy building site! Photo: Jørgen Malling Christensen
RMH continued north, passing this corner Borgergade/Fredericiagade. Photo: Jørgen Malling Christensen
As he passed the corner, perhaps he glanced west along Fredericiagade, admiring the beautiful dwellings built exclusively for navy personel. Photo: Jørgen Malling Christensen
According to the information connected to this old photo, it shows the buildings at the corner of Borgergade/Fredericiagade. Photo: The Royal Library
Someone shouts a greeting from behind, RMH looks back, seeing the far end of the masonic lodge and adjacent building (still standing unchanged since his time). Photo: Jørgen Malling Christensen
50 meters further north, passing the corner Borgergade/Olfert Fischers Gade. This building had also been completed rather recent (probably at the end of the 1880s). This part of Olfert Fischers Gade was earlier called Ulvegade. Photo: Jørgen Malling Christensen
Olfert Fischers Gade is named after Danish navy officer, Olfert Fischer, 1747-1830. Photo: The Royal Library
The other side of Olfert Fischers Gade was lined with the ochre-yellow navy buildings, these were the last to be constructed (1886-1893). This part of the road was previously called Bryggerlængen. Photo: Jørgen Malling Christensen
Reaching the corner of Sankt Paulsgade/Borger- gade (these also belong to the last batch of buildings from 1886-1893). Photo: Jørgen Malling Christensen
Looking west where the sun had set maybe two hours before, RMH could perhaps barely make out the silhouette of Saint Paul's Church. Photo: Jørgen Malling Christensen
Facing south RMH would have seen this corner (Sankt Pauls Gade/
Borgergade). Photo: Jørgen Malling Christensen
RMH would take pleasure in the next building, brand new (1888). Photo: Jørgen Malling Christensen well as its twin, finished in 1889! Photo: Jørgen Malling Christensen
For RMH this was yet another new building! He must have reflected about the rabid developments in urban construction! Photo: Jørgen Malling Christensen
Corner Borgergade/Gernersgade, facing west. This part of Nyboder belongs to the recent stock, built 1886-93, hence RMH must have faced another building site here when he passed in September 1890. Photo: Jørgen Malling Christensen
Yet another view from Borgergade/Gernersgade looking towards the north-west. Photo: Jørgen Malling Christensen
This building on Borgergade is used by the Heritage Agency. It bears the hallmark of being from the 1880s. Photo: Jørgen Malling Christensen
Corner Borgergade/Tigergade facing nort-east. Photo: Jørgen Malling Christensen
Corner Borgergade/Tigergade facing north-east. Photo: Jørgen Malling Christensen
Corner Borgergade/Tigergade facing south. Photo: Jørgen Malling Christensen
Just after having passed Tigergade, looking back along Borgergade towards the south-west. Photo: Jørgen Malling Christensen
RMH is getting closer and closer to the point where he got a stroke and fell to the ground. The picture above shows an overview of the last metres of his walk. The red cross shows the building on the corner of Borgergade/Leopardlængen (now Suensonsgade) which he was brought into after his death Photo: The Royal Library
A second overview from a different angle. RMH came walking towards the viewer, fell to the ground very close to the closest building on the left hand, behind the statue of Vice-Admiral Edvard Suenson. Probably he was brought into the apartment on the right side of the building, also marked by a red cross. Photo: Døvehistorisk Selskab
Corner Borgergade/Leopardlængen (now Suensonsgade). This was where RMH had his stroke on 27 September 1890 around 22H 30. He fell to the ground and passers-by rushed up to him, noting that he was already dead. A physisian called upon had his body placed in this house. The name of the street, was at the time, Lepordlængen. Subsequently a message was sent with a station sargeant to the Royal Institute for the Deaph-Mutes only some 1200 metres to the north. The caretaker of the institute came and brought his body to the institute and to his family. Photo: Sverre Avnskog
The physician who came to the place, Hoter Axel Breuning-Storm, 1849-1923, could only ascertain, that RMH was deceased. Photo: The Royal Library
The portert at the Royal Institute for the Deaf-Mutes, P. C. Sørensen carried RMH home in a wagon, assisted by to station sargeants from the Nyboder police. Photo: Døvehistorisk Selskab
RMHs second wife, who he married in 1880, Anna Steenstrup, 1842-1897. They only got ten years together in marriage. Photo: The Royal Library
This map from ca 1890 shows the last route of Malling-Hansen; the red line shows where he walked by his own means, the blue line shows where he was carried in a wagon by the porter at the institute with the assistance of two station sargeants from the Nyboder police
Corner Borgergade/Suensonsgade, facing south. Photo: Jørgen Malling Christensen
Corner Borgergade/Suensonsgade, facing north. Photo: Jørgen Malling Christensen
Corner Suensonsgade/Borgergade. Photo: Jørgen Malling Christensen
View along Suensonsgade towards north-west. Photo: Jørgen Malling Christensen
Close to Leopardlængen(Suensonsgade) RMH would often have seen the monument for Vice-Admiral Eduard Suenson, 1805-1887, inaugurated on May 9, 1889. In fact, it is very likely that this was the last thing RMH saw in life. Photo: Jørgen Malling Christensen
The Suenson Memorial from a different angle - from the corner of Store Kongensgade, facing north. Photo: Jørgen Malling Christensen
Vice Admiral Edouard Suenson, 1805-1887. May be RMH had a last look at his memorial before he fell to the ground?And perhaps the sight of Mr. Suenson, reminded him of another peron with exactly the same name - the son, also nemed Edouard Suenson, 1842-1921, and also a navy officer. And apart from that director of "Store Danske Telegraf Kompani". This Mr. Suenson was the very first man to invest a larger sum of money in RMH's most famous invention, buying several speciemens of the Writing Ball in 1871 to the stations both in Denmark and England. Photo: The Royal Library
It is said that memories of our life passes in our mind just before the death moment, and the statue of Eduard Suenson may very well have reminded RMH of the victories and the defeats of his life - he had so many ideas and projects to execute, but just in a few cases he saw his efforts crowned with succsess. Before he died he once said that he did not want to be celebrated, because in his own mind he should have done so much more.... Photo: The Royal Library
Rasmus Malling-Hansen on a photo fram 1860. A extraordinary giftet young man, with his head full of ideas, plans and projects to execute! Photo: Private
A large summit in the history of the Writing Ball was when "Store Nordiske Telegraf Kompani" decided to buy several machines of this model to their stations. The future looked bright for the young inventor! Did he manage to fulfill all the dreams of his life during his relatively short lifetime...? Photo: Private



January 2010,

Jørgen Malling Christensen and

Sverre Avnskog