Home ° 2017


The Vikings

The Viking period (9th to 11th centuries) was one of national unification and expansion. The Norwegian royal line died out in 1387, and the country entered a period of union with Denmark. By 1586, Norway had become part of the Danish Kingdom.

View of Odde, Hardanger Fjord in Norway Norway.


During the 18th Century foreign influences shaped the everyday life of the citizens of Norway. Traders often went to Europe.

The most important trading partners were the colonial powers Great Britain and Holland. Norwegians returned home with their heads full of enlightened ideas and their luggage full of tobacco, coffee, tea and spices. Emulating the great trade capitols of the time, they did not wait long before they built their own luxurious houses with magnificent gardens.

Unfortunately, Denmark (and Norway) allied themselves to France during the Napoleonic Wars. After Napoleon's defeat in 1814, Denmark ceded their territory of Norway to Sweden, who was on the winning side of the conflict. When the Norwegians did not accept this "union", Sweden launched a military campaign to force the issue.

After the 1814 "union" with Sweden, Norway's economy suffered due to the disappearance of her traditional markets in Denmark and Britain. Many citizens faced hardships and the Storting, Norway's parliament, continued to defy the Swedish monarchy. An assembly convened at Eidsvoll and formally adopted a constitution designating the Danish Prince Christian Frederick as King on 17 May 1814. During the 1830's the economy rebounded and by 1848, there were calls for democratic reforms. In 1884, Norway formally divided itself into two political parties, the Liberals and the Conservatives..

April 18, 1851, Sacramento Transcript, Sacramento, California

Norwegians for California

We see it stated in a French paper that 284 Norwegians recently embarked at the port of Christiana, in Norway, on board a single vessel, bound for San Francisco. They are represented, for the most part, as young and hardy mountaineers, workmen and laborers.

By 1881, an estimated 800,000 Scandinavians, mostly Norwegians, lived in the United States. The immigration began in 1825 when a company of 53 adventurers came over in a sloop, after having been ten weeks on the ocean. They settled in Orelans and Otsego counties, New York, and soon prospered. Ten years later there was a considerable immigration from Norway to LaSalle, Illinois, but the later immigration preferred Wisconsin and Minnesota, though many have gone to Iowa and Illinois. These settlers preserved their home country's ways of worship and their language, and had about a dozen newspapers published in the Danish-Norwegian language.

January 23, 1885, IRON

The most important advantages in favour of the Norwegian shipping trade is the generally trustworthy, conscientious, and intelligent character of the officers employed, and the caution, order, and, above all, economy, with which maritime affairs, and in general all oommercial transactions, are conducted. These good points enable the Norwegian shipowners to compete successfully with foreign nations in the carrying trade of the world, and to derive profit and advantage from undertakings where their rivals have experienced but loss and disappointment.

November 25, 1893, San Francisco Call, San Francisco, California, U.S.A.


A Bloodless Revolution May Establish a Republic.
New York Press.

Viggo Ullman, President of the Storthing, the Norwegian House of Parliament, has been in this country for some time visiting the Columbian Exposition. He is a patriotic Norwegian and his views are radical.

"Matters are quiet in Norway just now," he said, "but it is ttie calm which precedes the storm. There will be no election to the Storthing until next year, but in the meanwhile preparations are being made and the people are already looking forward with eagerness to the election.

You know that when Norway and Sweden were united it was agreed that the consiuution of each country should be so changed that each Government would be separate and independent, although there should be but one King for both countries. In the event of a defensive war they were to assist each other. The constitution of Norway was changed accordingly, but that of Sweden remains tne same as it was before the union.

"Because or this, Sweden through her King has the appointment or all foreign Ministers, Consuls and diplomats. These officials are all Swedes. On June 10 of last year the Storthing passed a resolution demanding that Norway should have her own representatives in foreign ports, and that the symbol or union should be expunged from the flag. The King, supported by the Conservative, vetoed this after having displaced the Liberals in the diplomatic service and substituted conservatives in their place.

"In September and October of next year the election to the Storthing will take place, and as the majority of the voters are Liberals, nothing can prevent the election of a majority of the House by that party. The resolution will then be again passed, and will go into effect. The King will have no support in the event of his opposing it. If our wishes are not granted there will be a bloodless revolution, and Norway will make of itself a republic fashioned, after the United States."

August 27, 1894, Supplement to the London and China Telegraph

Norwegian shipping with twenty-nine vessels and 40,818 tons shows an increase of twenty vessels and 22,007 tons as compared with the preceding year.

The Norwegian Government offered the throne of Norway to Danish Prince Carl in 1905. After a plebiscite approving the establishment of a monarchy, the parliament unanimously elected him king. He took the name of Haakon VII, after the kings of independent Norway.

Norway was "non-belligerent" during World War I, but as a result of the German invasion and occupation during World War II, Norwegians generally became skeptical of the concept of neutrality and turned instead to collective security.

Shipwreck on the Norwegian Coast, 1831
Johan Christian Clausen Dahl
Shipwreck on the Norwegian Coast. Norway.Shipwrck on the Norwegian Coast 1831.

Norway was one of the signers of the North Atlantic Treaty in 1949 and was a founding member of the United Nations. The first UN General Secretary, Trygve Lie, was a Norwegian. Under the terms of the will of Alfred Nobel, the Storting (Parliament) elects the five members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee who award the Nobel Peace Prize to champions of peace.


The oldest of all the capital cities in Scandinavia, Oslo was established in 1048 by King Harald Hardr da. The settlement, called ` slo (` s means `God , while `lo is `field ), grew in importance with the building of a castle in 1300, but by 1624, the town, which was originally made largely of wood, had suffered so many fires that the ruler of Norway-Denmark, King Christian IV, decided to shift it. He built another town, a new one, further to the west, and named it Christiana (after himself) - a fine example of modesty!

By the 19th century, the city had expanded considerably, by absorbing many of the neighbouring municipalities; simultaneously, it also grew as a center of trade, industry and commerce. By the 1800s, Christiana had overtaken Bergen as Norway's largest and most prosperous city, and in 1925, was renamed Oslo. During World War II, despite Norway s neutrality, the city was occupied by the Nazis and was liberated only at the end of the war, when the royal family returned.

A Steamer in the Sognefjord Steamer in the Sognefjord.Norway.Steamer in the Sognefjord.

The Sognefjord or Sognefjorden is the largest fjord in Norway and the third longest in the world. Because the other two fjords are often ice-covered, the Sognefjorden is the longest open fjord in the world.

Adelsteen Normann (1848-1918)

Eilert Adelsteen Normann was born in Bodin, Norway. He was destined to succeed his father as a shopkeeper and was sent to Kopenhagen to be educated. However, because he wanted to become a painter he went to Dusseldorf and had his first exhibition in Dusseldorf in 1875. In 1877 he exhibited, among others, a painting called "From The Nærøyfjord". This was later bought by The National Museum in Stockholm. In Berlin Normann became a well known person both as an artist and as a member of the "Verein Berliner Kunstler". He established a school for painters. Normann often painted steamships instead of "sognejekters" (a boat with high, upright stem) and rowing boats. He owned a beautiful "Nordlandsbåt" (a boat typical for the northern part of Norway) which he used frequently, and for this he bought an outboard engine. This was one of the first of its kind in Balestrand. Before the engine was introduced, Normann had to make do with sail and oars when he went looking for subjects to paint in the Sognefjord area. He often went to the Nærøyfjord, but he also went towards the ocean, sometimes all the way to Nordfjord.

Norway to America.Norway to America. A History of the Migration. Norway To America:
A History of the Migration
Norway to America.
Ingrid Semmings
Specific accounts of life aboard ship, travel routes and early settlements. Descriptions of interrelationships among immigrants from many countries will make a lasting impression. My own family is German Jew, Irish Catholic, Welsh Presbyterian...all of whom came here seeking refuge from persecution. This is worth reading even if one doesn't have Norwegian ancestors; many of their hardships apply to all newcomers to America.

In There Own Words.Ships, Shipping, Migration, World Seaports.
In Their Own Words: Letters from Norwegian ImmigrantsLetters from Norwegian Immigrants.
Edited and Translated by
Solveig Zempel
These letters are a tribute to the Norwegian immigrant experience, bringing to live the great hardship and great joy brought to these individuals who travelled great distances as did so many seeking refuge from countries around the world.

Norway.Ships of Wood, Men of Iron.
Ships of Wood and Men of Iron: A Norwegian-Canadian Saga of Exploration in the High ArcticNorwegian Canadia Exploration in the Arctic.
Gerard Kenny
Over 100 years ago, in June 1898, Captain Otto Sverdrup and 15 crewmen put out to sea aboard the schooner Fram from the Norwegian city today known as Oslo. When they returned to Norway four years later, they came back with a record of geographic and scientific discovery, the richness of which is unparalleled in the annals of Arctic exploration. The first section of this book is the story of those four heroic years spent in the High Arctic and their impact on Canada's subsequent efforts to ensure Canadian sovereignty in the area of the Norwegian discoveries. The second section of the book deals with the Canadian Arctic expeditions between 1903 and 1948, led by intrepid men such as A.P. Low, Joseph E. Bernier, Vilhjalmur Stefansson and Henry Larsen.

A History of the VikingsA History of the Vikings.
Gwyn Jones
Norway. The subject of this book is the Viking realms, Denmark, Sweden, and Norway, their civilization and culture, and their many achievements at home and abroad. A narrative follows the development of these Northern peoples--the Nordmenn--from their origins and the legendary pre-history to the military triumphs of Canute and the defeat of Harald Hardrdi at Stamford Bridge in 1066, which symbolically ended the Viking age. The book recounts the Vikings' exploits in war, trade, and colonization: the assault on Western Christendom; the trading and military ventures to the Slav and Muslim worlds and to Byzantium; and the western voyages of discovery and settlement to Greenland, Iceland, and America. Numerous photographs, maps, and drawings contribute to the portrait of Viking civilization and evoke the importance in their culture of religion, art, and seafaring.A History of the Vikings.

1899. World's Fleet. Boston Daily Globe

Lloyds Register of Shipping gives the entire fleet of the world as 28,180 steamers and sailing vessels, with a total tonnage of 27,673,628, of which 39 perent are British.

Great Britain10,990 vessels, total tonnage of 10,792,714
United States 3,010 vessels, total tonnage of 2,405,887
Norway 2,528 vessels, tonnage of 1,604,230
Germany 1,676 vessels, with a tonnage of 2,453,334, in which are included her particularly large ships.
Sweden 1,408 vessels with a tonnage of 643, 527
Italy1,150 vessels
France 1,182 vessels

For Historical Comparison
Top 10 Maritime Nations Ranked by Value (2017)

  Country # of Vessels







1 Greece 4,453 206.47 $88.0
2 Japan 4,317 150.26 $79.8
3 China 4,938 159.71 $71.7
4 USA 2,399 55.92 $46.5
5 Singapore 2,662 64.03 $41.7
6 Norway 1,668 39.68 $41.1
7 Germany 2,923 81.17 $30.3
8 UK 883 28.78 $24.3
9 Denmark 1,040 36.17 $23.4
10 South Korea 1,484 49.88 $20.1
Total 26,767 87.21 $466.9

The Project

Maritime Nations, Ships, Sea Captains, Merchants, Merchandise, Ship Passengers and VIPs sailing into San Francisco during the 1800s.



Merchant Shipping

Merchant Shipping.Merchant Shipping and Ancient Commerce.  
History of Merchant Shipping and Ancient CommerceMerchant Shipping and Ancient Commerce.
W. S. Lindsay

Kindly Kindly Donate.


DALevy @


Sources: As noted on entries and through research centers including National Archives, San Bruno, California; CDNC: California Digital Newspaper Collection; San Francisco Main Library History Collection; and Maritime Museums and Collections in Australia, China, Denmark, England, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Wales, Norway, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, etc.

Please inform us if you link from your site. Please do NOT link from your site unless your site specifically relates to immigration in the 1800s, family history, maritime history, international seaports, and/or California history.