Carsten Anker, businessman and statesman

A man of his time with a vision for the future

Michael Kleiner
Business & Sports Editor
The Norwegian American

Carsten Anker, Eidsvoll

Image: Wikipedia / public domain
A portrait of Carsten Anker by Christian Kahrs copied after a painting done by Christian August Lorentzen in 1814 at Eidsvoll.

Most Norwegians and Norwegian Americans know that Eidsvoll was where Norways’s Constitution was drafted and approved in 1814.

What was Eidsvoll? What was the Eidsvoll Manor House, where the 112 male delegates met, now a museum as a tribute to the historical moments in Norwegian history as Philadelphia’s Independence Hall is to Untited States. Who was Carsten Anker, who was born Nov. 17, 1747, and died March 13, 1824? Why Eidsvoll as the site for the “revolution?”

The answer to the last question is not totally clear—but it might be as simple as geography.

The location

Eidsvoll was close to the Vorma River and Lake Mjøsa, which provided routes to inland areas of Northern Norway. Later, in 1854, the first railroad originating in Oslo was completed with Eidsvoll as the terminus. It would become the hub for the steamboat Skibladner–whose initial voyage was in 1856–travel on Mjøsa to Lillehammer, Gjøvik, and Hamar (the three towns would be the venues at the 1994 Winter Olympics).

Though these modes of transportation weren’t available in 1814, Eidsvoll might have been a central location.

Historically, court and assembly (ting) meetings for the eastern district of Norway were held in Eidsvoll as far back as the 11th century.

Eidsvoll’s prime products were iron, agriculture, rich soil, and, briefly there was a gold rush. In 1624, King Christian IV of Denmark opened Eidsvoll Iron Works (Verk) to smelt iron ore. The Andelva River provided great water power.

The Eidsvoll Manor House

Image: Kjetil Bjørnsrud / Wikipedia
The Eidsvoll Manor House as it looks today. Today a museum open to the public, the estate has been restored to how is looked in 1814, when the founders of Norway met there to draft and sign the Norwegian Constitution.

Businessman, civil servant, and politician

In 1688, the director of Kongsberg Silver Mines and his family acquired Eidsvoll Verk. The Schlanbusch clan retained possession until 1781. Carsten Tank Anker, a Norwegian businessman, civil servant, and politician, attained ownership in 1794. The works had sunk into disrepair due to deforestation of a number of the area forests, which they needed for charcoal production. Anker reversed the factory’s fortunes, and in 1811, he moved into the manor house, which he had repaired.

Anker was the son of a trader, Erik Anker. Carsten, his brother, and four cousins left Norway in 1759. Several trading companies asked him to serve as an envoy in Stockholm, arguing for better working conditions in the timber industry. He didn’t have much success in that 1771-1772 period. While in Sweden, he was accused of having a “secret political agenda.” After Gustav IV executed a coup, Anker was recalled by the Copenhagen government.

He built a strong civil servant career, starting with being named secretary of College of General Rural Economy and Commerce on May 10, 1774. Subsequent appointments were:  justisråd (Council of Justice) (1776); third deputy of the Bjærgværkset direktoiret (Mining Directory) (1781); second deputy (1784);  mostly honorary titles of etatsråd (Agency Council) (1779), konferens­råd (Conference Council) (1784) and was also made a member of the nobility on Jan. 14, 1779, which is interesting since Norway would abolish the nobility.

The royalty dissolved Bjærgværksdirektoriet on Jan. 28, 1791. They provided Anker with a pension and allowed him to retain his title of First Director of Realisations-Kommission (Realization Committee), where one of the responsibilities was overseeing the Norwegian glass-making industry.

From 1792 to 1811, he was an envoy of the Danish Asia Company, responsible for its business affairs in London as relating to the English East India Company.

Founding statesman

Anker was actually among the founder at the constitutional assembly. He was also a friend of Prince Christian Frederick of Denmark, who was the likely heir to the throne and viceroy in Norway.

Anker had been appointed one of the prince’s main advisers. It was actually the prince who called for election of delegates to an assembly to discuss a constitution and independence.

Christian Frederick probably had an ulterior motive that though Norway had been taken from Denmark, he could be a candidate for king of this new country, maintaining a Denmark-Norway connection and perhaps reuniting the countries in the future.

On Feb. 16, 1814, the prince had a “meeting with notables”—21 prominent members of Norwegian society—at Eidsvoll to gauge their feelings about how the new country would be structured.

The sentiment was strongly for popular sovereignty and the leader of state should be elected democratically by the people. The representatives told Christian Frederick to call for elections for a Norwegian Constituent Assembly.

On Feb. 19, Christian Frederick made himself a regent and directed elections for the following Sunday, Feb. 25, at churches around the country.

The assembly and later years

The delegates gathered at Eidsvoll on April 10. Following the ratification of the constitution, Christian Frederick was elected king but lost the throne to Karl Johan when the Swedes invaded.

As for Anker, he never participated in the assembly but just offered his house as the meeting place for the assembly. He was appointed Councillor of Governme-nt for the 5th Ministry (Economy) on March 2, 1814, five weeks before the delegates gathered, and Councillor of State on May 19, two days after independence was declared.

Anker had already left Norway in March. He attempted to negotiate Norway’s interests with England, while also trying to pit Sweden and the other superpowers against each other. As before, his negotiating skills did not accomplish much, and he was dismissed as Councillor of State in 1815. Nevertheless, upon returning to Norway, he struck up a friendship with King Karl Johan.

Anker’s interests included literature and he had a large collection of manuscripts and books. He also served as a patron. His financial situation took a downturn when Eidsvoll Verk was almost completely closed. He still oversaw glassworks and died while visiting Birii glassworks on March 13, 1824. He was 76 years old,

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This article originally appeared in the May 2024 issue ofThe Norwegian American.

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Michael Kleiner

Michael Kleiner, business and sports editor, has more than three decades of experience as an award-winning journalist and public relations professional. He has operated his own PR and web design business for small businesses, authors and community organizations in Philadelphia since 1999. Not of Norwegian descent, he lived in Norway for a year with his family at age 11 and has returned as an adult. He is the author of a memoir, Beyond the Cold: An American’s Warm Portrait of Norway, and a member of NorCham Philadelphia. Visit;