range of activities, several of which were run in parallel.
Over the years, Matthisen’ activities certainly included inn
keeping, farming, trading, timber and shipping.
Espen Matthisen had a wide area of contact in his
activities in bothWest Jutland and abroad, and contacts with
Norway and Sweden in connection with the importation of
timber from these countries presumably contributed to his
appointment as Norwegian and Swedish consul in Hjerting.
The importation of timber may very well have been
undertaken in his own ship, as over the years, Matthisen
owned a total of four different ships, three of which were
big enough for this purpose.
One of these ships was the schooner
with a load
capacity of over 66 metric tons, which Lorenz Petersen
painted in 1847. The ship was built in 1843. The place of
building is not known, but a likely candidate is one of the
many shipbuilding places on Fanø not far from Hjerting.
was a typical North Sea and Baltic Sea vessel, but
to date we do not have any other data for the ship’s routes
than its home port of Hjerting, and Altona, where the ship
was portrayed. The
, which was owned by Matthisen
until some time in 1855, was supplemented by a small ewer
by 1852, so apart from his many other activities, Matthisen
now had two vessels.
Espen Matthisen appears to have done quite well
financially. He was able to maintain a comfortable staff of
servants and was also described at the time as a prosperous
man. Contemporary sources also described him as a person
of intellect and goodwill. Espen Matthisen was married
to Ane Helene Bagge, who was seven years younger. The
marriage apparently produced no children, but the censuses
over the years note two foster daughters. It is not known
whether their childlessness was an incentive, but the couple
decided to donate part of their estate to charity. This was
done in 1849 via the construction of the charitable residence
and the endowment of a foundation capital of
around twenty thousand rix dollars, the interest on which
was to be used for support and educational purposes as
well as maintenance of the residence for old sailors or their
Hjerting at this time was a typical small skippers’ town
with a big maritime element in the population. The town’s
own fleet comprised only a dozen or so vessels, but many
of Hjerting’s seamen undoubtedly signed on with Fanø’s
expanding fleet of sailing ships which flourished with the
opening of the English market in the 1840s. Matthisen may
have had an eye on the same possibilities in his arrangements
for the
, but a new era came to Hjerting in the form of
the steamship
in the year when the portrait of
was painted. The idea was direct cattle transport from West
Jutland to England, and Matthisen actively entered this field
when, in the attempt to provide the best possible conditions
for the new steamship route in 1851-52, he was one of
the supporters of the construction of Hjerting pier - and
centrally placed for this role. The state, whose attention had
been directed towards Hjerting during the first Schleswig
War in 1848-51, backed the initiative by buying a large
number of shares in the company behind the pier, and the
public authorities also provided support by building a new
road from Kolding through Varde to Hjerting.
But the initiative ultimately failed, partly because of
practical problems with damage to the bridge and partly
because of strong competition from Tønningen in Holstein.
Espen Matthisen withdrew from the management as early
as 1853, and died in 1856. He thus never saw the final
abandoning of the bridge project in 1862.
Matthisen’s concern for Hjerting’s shipping industry is
clearly seen in, for example, the trust deed for
his participation in the bridge initiative. The course of the
latter initiative would, however, prove fatal for Hjerting as a
maritime locality. When the loss of Schleswig and Holstein
after the defeat in the war of 1864 again highlighted the
need for a harbour in West Jutland, the experience with
the pier helped to ensure that Esbjerg was chosen ahead of
Hjerting, whose maritime activities were soon engulfed by
the new harbour.
Together with
, the picture of the
is testi-
mony to a time when people still believed in a future for
Hjerting’s shipping - and a reminder of how quickly things
can change.
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