Peter Jebsen (1824–92)

Peter Jebsen was born at Broager in the Duchy of Schleswig in present-day Denmark, but after gaining experience in several countries became one of Norway’s leading industrial entrepreneurs of the nineteenth century. He was involved with many aspects of manufacturing and transport, and established a brand that is still globally recognised. He worked for a time in the textile industry in Hamburg, but in 1843 moved to Bergen in Norway where he set up a company, Arne Fabrikker which operated Norway’s first mechanical weaving mill on the outskirts of the city. In 1844 he left Norway to gain experience of industry across Europe, spent six months working in a cotton mill in Manchester, and did not return to Bergen until 1844. His company steadily expanded and employed more than 400 people by the early 1860s. In 1878 he set up a factory at Dale, in Hordaland county, 40 km north-east of Bergen, where, some years earlier, he had recognised the potential for generating hydro-electric power.

In 1899 he founded Dale Fabrikker, now known as Dale of Norway, which manufactured Lusekofte sweaters and outdoor jackets. Jebsen also had interests in mining, in a glass works in Bergen, and in the development of electric power networks. He was an enterprising ship owner, investing first in schooners then in steam ships. His attempt to establish a shipping line to take emigrants from Scandinavia to the United States was unsuccessful, but he prospered by taking Muslim pilgrims from India to Arabia, and in Burma and China. In 1872 the Norske Lloyd line’s steamship Peter Jebsen was launched at Middlesbrough in England. Jebson was also a promoter of railways, particularly of the route from Bergen to Voss, opened as a narrow gauge line in 1883, that, after his death, became part of the standard gauge Bergensbanen linking Bergen with Oslo.

He was also a member of the Norwegian parliament and acted in Bergen as consul for the kingdom of Saxony and later for the German Empire.