The factory and WW1

When World War I broke out in 1914, the factory faced troubling times. It was dependent on raw materials from abroad, especially from England. As England was among the warring parties, import became difficult. Another challenge arose due to the economic boom. Prices for raw materials and transport rose monthly. In 1915, Germany declared that the waters surrounding England were war zones. German submarines could from then on sink ships from neutral countries. From 1916, the situation in Norway grew worse.

There was a serious lack of supplies, both for daily consumption and for industrial use. Despite price control, prices surpassed all boundaries.
(Furre 1971:70) - Translated

Conditions abroad affected the factory in Egersund. For the workers, this luckily did not equal disaster. Herring fishing along the coast was a rich endeavour that required large amounts of labour. As the faience factory had to make cuts in operations, dismissed workers found work in the herring industry. After a while, the workforce had been reduced from approximately 400 workers in 1912, to 80 workers in 1918. The annual report from 1917 stated that 250 workers, both male and female, had resigned due to better pay in the herring industry.

After the war ended, the factory gradually recovered. However, it was not until 1920 that the annual report declared operations to be more or less back to normal, with ¾ of the regular workforce. World War I marks a division in the factory’s history. Prior to the war, the factory was the most important workplace in the city. During the war, the herring industry took over this role. In 1920, the factory was once again the biggest workplace in Egersund. The workforce consisted both of seasoned workers and of young teens starting their careers.

In the Interwar period, the faience factory strengthened its position as the city’s most important workplace. Yet the factory was not only the most important place of employment, for most people it was also considered the only secure workplace in Egersund. For young workers, there were few opportunities for employment other than at the factory.

There were some in my generation who were apprentices, but as soon as they were fully taught, they were fired. Because they were employing a new apprentice. It was cheap labour.
(E.F.A.1989) - Translated

Unemployment was high. Getting work at the faience factory stood as a dream for most people. It was said that a boy had only three options in Egersund. One was getting work at the factory, which meant the boy would be well kept. A second option was getting work at sea. The last option was to emigrate to the US.

The faience factory was a dominating force in Egersund throughout the Interwar period. With their central location in the city, the large brick factory buildings stood in strong contrast to the surrounding little wooden houses. Life in the city was largely adapted to the working hours at the factory. When the workers had their dinner break from 12.30 to 14.00, the city came to life. Four hundred workers poured out of the factory gates and went home to eat.