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Food and consumer items

The business of obtaining sufficient food and consumer items for housekeeping and for the mining operation, was a very tough challenge.

Kirsti Jordet

The area was high above sea level, the summers short, to get corn to ripen was almost impossible and the layer of topsoil was thin, particularly on the eastern side of the Glomma River. Distances within the district were huge, particularly when one had to walk, ride on horseback, or rely on a horse-drawn wagon or sledge.

Mining communities in general, but Røros in particular, had enormous supply problems. This was the reason why the special concession or privilege documents contained regulations concerning allowance for duty and customs free purchase of goods destined for the mines. At certain mines there was a company store, which sold goods to the labourers and the smallholders. The company store had a monopoly on trading and the sale of goods, at least according to the rules, but a great deal of illegal trading went on outside the store.

Cereal products were the most valuable, first and foremost barley and rye. Malt was another important item. The most usual items such as, butter, cheese, dried peas, pork, salt, fish, leather goods, homespun materials, tobacco, spirits, and, in addition, horses were sold. It was usual practice that a labourer’s pay was made out to him in provisions and food. The mine required tools,dynamite, iron, leather, ropework and other items from the outside world, but charcoal and timber was available locally. The participants (the owners in Trondheim) and the store manager were responsible for purchasing the goods to be sold.

Where did all the provisions come from? Cereals came from Trondheim, Hedemarken and Gudbrandsdalen (Lom), Pere Hiort mentions that previously a lot of the butter came from Sogn. Meat was supplied from Romsdalen and Nordfjord and most of the horses came from Gudbrandsdalen.

What could the villages and communities within the circumference contribute? We know that a certain amount of meat was delivered. The Sami people were also suppliers of meat. A typical locally produced cheese was also sold in the company store. However, what really meant the most was the fact that the miners, and the smelting house workers were allocated land where they could grow hay and feed a few domestic animals. Documents from the1700s show that on the average a labourer in Røros owned a horse, 4 or 5 milking cows and 3 to 4 sheep, or goats. The historian, Jon Birger Larsen has attempted to calculate the calorific supplement to a worker’s diet by having his own animals, he came to the conclusion that it was about 20% of the total energy supplied. The labourers who worked in the forests and transported timber and ore for the Company, had to buy supplies from the outside.

The men who drove the wagons and sledges from Trondelag, Hedemarken, Gudbrandsdalen, Sweden and other places contributed by carrying the goods which they did mostly during the winter. ‘Not so much as a barrel of cereal would have arrived had it not been for the assistance of the snow’, writes Andreas Holmsen pithily and to the point.

All that is written here indicates that the mining community was totally dependent on an enormous area of the country, which was situated well outside the 1646 circumference, in order to obtain sufficient food and other supplies.


Privilegiebrev av 19 oktober 1646 til Jochum Jürgens
”Wü Hans”, skrift nr. 6 fra Kongsberg bergverksmuseum
Holmsen: ”Før bonden ble forretningsmann” (1982)
Larsen: ”Rørosarbeidernes levestandard på 1700-tallet”
Eilert Sundt: ”Om Røros og omegn” (Trykt 1858)

Museum24:Portal - 2024.05.28
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