• Peter Bo Sørensen
4. term, History, Master (Master Programme)

This special subject deals with the fast economic development and fast increase of the population in the town of Aarhus according to an analysis of the museum exhibition “Vokseværk 1850-1950”, which is placed in “Den Gamle By” situated near the central part of the town. The reason for the choice of this particular special subject analysis is based upon an astonishment of the fast growth of Aarhus within a relatively short period of time during the last half of the 19th century. “What casual relations are there to be found according to the fast growth of the provincial town of Aarhus?” – And – “How are these casual relation presented in the museum exhibition “Vokseværk 1850-1950”?

The abolition of absolutism in 1848 announced new more democratic conditions in Denmark. New liberal winds bringing market economy blew across the Danish state in the 1850´ties, and resulted into the abolishment of old special trade and customs benefits to the provincial towns like Aarhus. New Danish trade legislation passed in 1857 gave the Danish population the right of establishment of free trade, without special permission from the king or powerful craft guilds in the provincial towns. The changes in legislation and in agricultural production combined with migration from rural areas to the town, market economy, and better infrastructure especially harbour improvements, and railways all together created perfect conditions for economic and demographic expansion. The town of Aarhus grew from only 8900 citizens in 1855 to astonishing 152 000 citizens in 1950. Aarhus developed a broad representation of businessmen and industry as one cause for steady growth compared to many other provincial towns often depending on one or a few large enterprises. Another cause for the success and rapid growth was Aarhus´ perfect geographic centre position at the east cost in the middle of Denmark, and as mentioned above its fine coastal harbour, which was always up-to-date, plus making of the railways and early highways presenting perfect infrastructure to the benefit of the local trade and industry before the year 1900.
Local and political active influential merchants as Hans Broge and his son-in-law Otto Mønsted were representative for business pioneers of the 19th century in Aarhus supporting economic and technical development e.g. of modern dairy production to the benefit of the Danish butter export, as well as creating export steamship lines from Aarhus harbour to England, and large enterprises as “Aarhus Oliemølle” and the food factory “Mønsted Margarine”.

It is also important to emphasize the weight of the iron industry as one significant reason for the fast and stabile growth of Aarhus represented by iron-pioneers as Søren Frich from 1854. Frich’s iron factory developed into the most important Danish locomotive factory at the beginning of the 20th century watched in combination with the Danish State Railways huge enterprise “Centralværkstedet” were two of the most important iron industries in town in connection to the economic expansion, settlement and employment. The two mentioned Aarhus industries employed in their most successful periods in the 1930´ties and 1940´ties respectively about 1000 industrial workers at Frichs, and approximately 1800 workers at the Danish State Railways “Centralværkstedet” representing two of the largest and most important industries in Aarhus.

The causes for the fast development of Aarhus as mentioned above are part of the historic tale at the museum exhibition “Vokseværk” with the central geographic placement, the fine up-to-date harbour, the railroads and iron industry represented by an Aarhus-made Frichs steam locomotive engine from 1920 as a full scale museum exhibit with special digital museum effects as front light, sounds and fake smoke. It is supplemented by a digital historic railroad map, ditto movies and a technical locomotive drawing at the exhibition, plus digital info-screens, and a reconstructed harbour environment as the main part of the exhibition etc. These are some of the most important reasons for the fast economic and demographic development of Aarhus between 1850 and 1950.

Publication date31 May 2018
Number of pages63
ID: 280200831