The "Norwegian American Steamship Company" was founded in Bergen 1870.
One of the founders of the line was Peter Jebsen, who was already in the
shipping business. Jebsen was partial owner of a Bergen shipping company called
"Norske Lloyd". The founding of the line was the first attempt to maintain a
direct steamship route from Norway to America. Before 1870 most Norwegian
emigrants left Norway on sailing vessels. By 1870 the great transatlantic
steamship companies had by far conquered the sailing ships in the transportation of emigrants.
Norwegian emigrants who wanted to travel to America by steamship, had to travel
via Britain or Germany. The Allan Line and the Anchor Line had a feeder service from Norway for some years.
How ever, the dominant company in the feeder service from Norway was the British owned "Wilson Line".
There was also a route from Norway to
Hamburg and Bremen in Germany, maintained by Norwegian steamship companies.|
With the founding of the Norwegian - American Steamship Company the conditions
became much better for Norwegian emigrants. The crew on board the ships
spoke the same language as the passengers, and the food was traditional Norwegian.
Also, the journey became quicker and easier. The company was also often referred to
as "Det Norske Utvandrings-selskap" (The Norwegian Emigration Company) The first ship built or the service was launched in the spring of 1871, and was named "St. Olaf". This ship had a length of 300 feet x beam 35 feet and a depth of x 27 feet. Her burthen was 2500 ton deadweight. The engine could deliver 900 h.p., which gave the ship a speed of 10 knots. Steerage capacity was 500 passengers, and cabin capacity was 30 passengers. It had
a crew of 51 persons. On June 6 the St. Olaf started on its first voyage with
emigrants from Bergen to New York, where it arrived on June 23rd. with 493
passengers. The ship was fitted with large dormitories steerage, without
any refectory or saloons. The food was boiled with steam, and brought in to the
rooms in big tin pails. It is said that when the food was served it was
complete chaos steerage.
In the spring of 1872, the line chartered the Steamer "Peter Jebsen" from
Norwegian Lloyd. The Peter Jebsen left for New York on the 3rd of. May as the first ship
for the season. The St. Olaf left for New York with 614 passengers, and 5000 tons of
fish on 14th. June. On the 1st. of July the same year, the 2nd ship was launched from
the dock at Blackhouse & Dixons in Middlesbrough. This ship was given the name
Harald Haarfager. It left from Bergen on the 10th of July for New York, and arrived
there on July 25th. The same summer the company chartered another ship from
Norwegian Lloyd, the Frithjof.
In 1873 the season started early, and the "St. Olaf" left from Bergen on the 3rd of April for
her first sailing with passengers for America that year. The line had now
purchased their 3rd ship, the "Haakon Adelsteen". She started her her maiden voyage in Christiania, then called at Christiansand and Bergen before crossing the Atlantic for New York. Later the same year the "S/S Kong Sverre" was launched. This
ship was the largest ship in the fleet, her length was 321 feet x beam 37 feet and depth 27 feet.
The Kong Sverre carry 700 steerage passengers, 40 2nd class passengers and 40 on 1st class.
The company now maintained a route the New York from Christiania and Bergen, possibly calling at other ports on the way from Christiania to Bergen. The New York landing place was in Brooklyn. Their shipping agent there was Funch, Edye & Co. The ships carried
different cargo back to Europe, and in the winter season they were refitted as cargo ships, and brought cargo from various places.
Newspaper announcement from "Correspondenten" Feb. 28, 1873
In 1874 there was a decrease in the number of emigrants from Norway to America. The company also had difficulties in getting freights back to Europe. 1875 was even worse, and due to
this, the company sadly discontinued the route between Norway and America in 1876.
In the 5 years the company existed it had transported 8622 passengers from
Norway to New York.