Thursday, November 14, 2013

If this is Thursday it must be postcards, 116

Stavanger Town Square, ca 1915

Located in southwest Norway, Stavanger is today the fourth largest metropolitan area in the country.  The picture on this postcard shows the town square, which also doubled as a market area.  Most of the conveyances are horse drawn but at the lower right there is a motorcar or “gas bus.”  The men are wearing bowler hats; the women have long skirts or dresses putting the picture around 1910-1920. 

The city dates from 1125 when the cathedral was completed but most of the wooden buildings still standing and protected as part of the cultural heritage date from the 18th and 19th centuries.  The name comes from the Old Norse Stafangr the most popular interpretation seems to be that it refers to the inlet now called VågenStafr defined as staff or branch that can mean the high steep mountains.  Therefore the name would suggest that the city is near the mountains and by an inlet.  Most Norwegian place names are descriptive so this does seem plausible. 

The lower right corner of the card has the printed abbreviation of the photographer that looks like “Johns. Floor.”  Next to this is what appears to be a written signature “Flo---“ that is not entirely legible. 

The market or town square was an especially busy, active place during the autumn market held the end of October.  There was probably a market here of sorts even before Stavanger became a city.  Originally made of wood then later (1867) replaced with stone the wharf is sometimes referred to as the Farmer’s Peat Wharf because peat was brought in by boat loads and sold here for fuel.  During the period between 1850 and 1900 the autumn market vendors sold almost anything and everything from produce to crafts, clothing and used farm and household items.  There were flea markets; side shows, drinking in the alleys, huge crowds, and musicians wandering about.  The postcard certainly shows a large crowd of milling people along the edges of the square with many small stalls or wagons set up to sell things.  At the right side of the card is what looks like a temporary theater or side show building with crowds of people entering or clustered by the opening.  There is an amazing amount of detail in the photo including the small boats tied up (lower left side) and the steps leading up to the square from the water so the people could unload their goods and disembark to enter the market area directly from their boat.

Stavanger was also an important point of departure for emigrants.  Many of the records were lost or destroyed however they are being reconstructed from other available sources.  Stavanger is home to the Norwegian Emigration Center that is a division of the regional archives and has much information available for people who are searching out their ancestors.  For more information about the center, please see:

[Note:  Once you get on the Emigration Center web page there is a small British flag at the lower left that when clicked will translate the Norwegian to English.]

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