As systems of mass education expanded during the nineteenth century, the elementary schoolhouse gained national and international importance, both in discourse and sheer numbers. In France, the number of elementary schools increased from 52,900 (1837) to 81,400 (1891), and at the turn of the century there were 212,000 single-teacher schools in the United States (1913), 39,000 rural schools in European Russia (1894), 32,500 primary schools in Imperial Germany (1911) and 8,900 elementary schools in Sweden (1900).
Using the expanding Swedish nineteenth century elementary school system as a point of departure, this paper deals with the funding of school building projects, which is a fundamental issue both in respect to the history of schoolhouses, and the history of the expanding systems of mass education during the nineteenth century. Despite the attention that has been devoted to the social- and architectural history of schoolhouses, the funding of school building has only been treated in passing.
Through an extensive study of 66 school building project in the Sundsvall region 1840-1900, this paper aims to show how the funding of school building changed over time as a result of development within the school system as such, and the wider societal developments of the agrarian- and industrial revolution. From being primarily funded by in kind and monetary taxes, schoolhouses were to a large extent funded using loans from the expanding credit market. Special attention will be devoted to the relation between these sources of funding and the donations (land plots, building materials and money) that the building projects received from wealthy farmers and industrialists. Despite that these donations were relatively small, this study shows that they could play a disproportionately large role when a schoolhouse was to be erected.