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MR. L.A. MEYER

THE MERCHANT WHO BECAME A BRAND

He did not come empty-handed to Mo i Rana, but it is said that the entire inventory he brought with him was placed in a 40 feet open wooden boat, a fembøring. His business at Vikholmen, further out in the fjord had not given what he had expected, and he had therefore been offered to come to the inner end of the Rana fjord and take over the trading business after his uncle. Many people describe this September day in 1854 as the beginning of the Mo i Rana we know today.

Mo i Rana, Meyer, historie, Giga Factory

In a few years, LA Meyer built up a northern Norwegian trading empire with large export revenues

From coast to inland

Lars Aagaard Meyer was the son of the merchant at Nesna, Hans Abraham Meyer. The trading place on Strand out in the Ranfjord, was the same farm that Petter Dass owned when he was a priest on Nesna, 1673 - 1689. L.A. Meyer descended from a well-established trading family on Helgeland coast. Through his mother, Gidschen Buschmann Christensen, he also descended from the Benkestok nobility.

Nevertheless, it was probably the trade education he had received in Bergen that was the basis for his success. He reorganized a trade that had taken place at Mo for several hundred years, the trade with Swedish farmers and the Sami. They came over the mountains in caravans on horseback, and brought with them their attractive goods of fur, game meat and handicrafts.

The inner part of Rana had been known for centuries for its good timber. It was said that "north of Rana, there is no spruce", and for the construction of Nordland boats, spruce timber was particularly suitable. There is little recorded that can tell the extent of trade in the 16th and 17th centuries, but it is believed to have been significant. Northern Norway was rich in resources, and trade was seen as valuable to the king who ruled at any given time. As early as 1294, a ban was introduced for German merchants to carry their goods north of Bergen, and from 1310 the ban applied to all foreigners. Bergen had a monopoly on all trade, and northerners were required to transport all stockfish south.

Nordlandsjekt, tørrfisk, Helgeland, Mo i Rana

Nordlandsjekt with stockfish in Bergen harbor

Trade history

A "borgerleie" was a place where merchants had permission from the king to trade in the countryside. Those who had such a license also had the right to give northern Norwegian fishermen loans for goods and equipment for fishing, in exchange for the fisherman having a delivery obligation to the same trader. These traders were called "utligger". Petter Dass, who ran the stockfish trade in Alstahaug, probably got a little tired of competition from these people from Bergen and wrote "Udliggere, Kremmere, what Name they have ...".

There had been a "skipperleie" in Mo, a permit to transport goods south to Bergen, but it had ceased as early as 1660. Nevertheless, there is reason to believe that there were trading with the Swedes and the Sami, but documentation is deficient.

Christian V, Danmarks konge, Mo i Rana, Petter Dass

The Danish and Norwegian King Christian V gave trade permissions to the nobilities.

Jektefart (stockfish transport to Bergen)

Further out in the fjord, in Bardal, there was a "borgerleie", and there were probably more people out on the coast who participated in the Swedish trade. In 1775, the merchant in Bardal, Peder P. Greger, received a "borgerleie", and he started a small store on Moholmen, the old town Mo i Rana. It was this little shop LA Meyer took over 80 years later. At the same time, Meyer had bought the farm Mo. The farm  had rights as a guest house, which is the germ of what we know today as Meyergården Hotell.

Trade between north and south was important for the country. In northern Norway, the trading traffic was run by an entire village collaborated to build a freight boat. A contract regulated responsibilities, rights and obligations between the boat owner and the charterers. The yacht owner was the skipper, and the charterers were the farmers who owned the goods to be transported to Bergen. In 1739, the rules on such settlement traffic had been written down in a form of regulation called "Jekteartiklene".

Mo i Rana, historie, Meyer, Giga Factory

In a few years, LA Meyer developed his trade at his farm and store into a trade center

Technology luck

LA Meyer was born with a silver spoon in his mouth, but most of all he was a hard-working and well-educated business owner. Nevertheless, he was also lucky. The world was in a important technological change that gave his place Moholmen a great advantage for a merchant.

Almost at the same time as LA Meyer began its trade deep in the 60 km deep Ranfjord, the Nordland yacht received competition from steamships. This new form of freight was not dependent on wind, and one imagines the hardships of getting into the Ranfjord with a yacht in headwind.

The dams had a so-called steel keel, which means that the ship's hull was built of steel, and together with the heavy steam engines, this made them go much deeper into the sea than the more flat-bottomed yachts. LA Meyer was not alone in trading in the fjord, and the lack of a bridge over the river Ranelva meant that people in northern Rana made their purchases from the merchant in Ranosen at the north side. But the steamships did not reach the quay up in the river estuary, and that is when LA Meyer sees its cut to build a damship quay on Moholmen. With a new quay and proximity to both shop and warehouse, everything was prepared for growth. He built a road from Mo to Tverrånes (Lars Meyers street) and established ferry traffic across the river. Thus, the shopkeeper took care of most of the trade in the fjord.

Mo i Rana, historie, dampskip, Ranafjorden

Meyer's steamship quay was just a stone's throw from the shop and warehouse on Moholmen.

A vessel of honor

Lars A. Meyer saw great potential in his business and developed trade in several directions. One was to keep the farmers in the district with supplies, but he saw great value in buying goods back. Nordland boats of all sizes constituted a significant business. Meyer bought up to 1,000 wooden boats a year from the farmers in Rana, and resold them all over the coast. The farmers also made furniture, chests and cabinets, and everything was sold on with Meyer's trademark.

He opened game exports to England and Germany, and sold fur from hunters and Sami on the Swedish side of the border. He knew he was trading with low-income people, and was generous with credit. On the Swedish side, LA Meyer was considered a man of honor, and many poor people recovered from a setback and bad times with the help of the merchant at Mo.

Meyer had 60-70 people at work, and many of them all lived in his house and ate at his table. His sons Hans A. Meyer and Carsten Meyer, became involved in the operation at a young age, and from 1902 they took over the operation of the company after their father. LA Meyer himself moved across the fjord to the farm Stenneset which today is Rana Rural Mmuseum. LA Meyer died in 1909. He became 77 years old.

Mo i Rana, L.A. Meyer, historie
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