Postcards from Nord-Norge through 100 years

Greetings from the North Cape

Nordkapp

At Nordkapp, two Sámi women and a child in traditional dress stand near a statue raised in honor of King Oscar II.

Tove Andersson
Oslo

It must have been exciting: waiting for a greeting from the north, a postcard sent to the United States from the northernmost point in Norway.

Many postcards have been sent to the United States and other countries with “Hilsen fra Nordkapp.” Some of the cards are hand-colored, others are in black and white, some feature images faded over time. Fortunately, someone has collected these period-typical photos—and we have a chance to feature some here. In the latest issue of the magazine Nordkappfolk, published by the Nordkapp Historical Society and the Nordkapp Museum, one can also find cards that were sent on ships across the Atlantic.

Tourism to Nordkapp first gained momentum when the Nordkapp Road opened in 1956, but travelogues were already being written about the Nordkapp plateau by the early 18th century.

Ferdinand Eines is a postcard collector with 4,000 postcards, 700 of which are from Nordkapp. Many of these are typical tourist cards. Eines regularly buys from foreign auction sites and gets his hands on cards from Finnmark dating back to the 19th century.

Many vintage postcards from Nordkapp carry the greeting “Hilsen fra Nordkapp”—“Greetings from the North Cape,” including this card that depicts the midnight sun and a bird colony of terns.

“The interesting thing about postcards is that they can have two distinct sides: a great motif on one side and a recorded history on the other side,” says Eines, who started out as a stamp collector.

Today, Eines is a fixture of his community, where he is also a volunteer for the Red Cross. He recently received a diploma for 40 years of membership there, 23 of which were as a first aid instructor in Finnmark.

A vast vintage collection

The collection contains hand-colored cards, including cards that show that you could drive a car all the way up to where Nordkapp’s famous globe monument stands today. One postcard is clearly signed “Jackson” and is stamped New York, but the handwriting from that time can be hard to decipher. Nonetheless, it is clear that someone from Minnesota received a telegram from the office while they were on a vacation in Nordkapp and read that in July they “had a wonderful clear view of midnight sun.”

Several cards show the first ships with the name “Midnatsol.” Today’s Midnatsol is the fourth Hurtigruten ship to bear the name. The forerunners were DS Midnatsol (1910), MS Midnatsol (1949), and MS Midnatsol (1982).

This postcard depicts the first in a series of Hurtigruten ships named Midnatsol. It was a passenger ship that was christened in 1910 to carry goods, mail, and passengers along the coastal route of Norway.

The back side of this postcard carries a cheerful greeting from “H.W.G.” to his coworkers back home at the Chamber of Commerce in Minneapolis, dated July 16, 1925.

“Because I’m from Båtsfjord [in Eastern Finnmark], it was natural to start with a hometown collection,” says Eines on his blog, a collaboration with the website Finnmarksbilder. “I still collect stamps, letters, and other postal items stamped at the post offices in Finnmark.”

From Nordkapp Municipality, he has postcards from Honningsvåg, Nordvågen, Skarsvåg, Laholmen, Storbukt, Gjesvær, Kamøyvær, and Repvåg. On a card from Aune Kunstforlag, you can see three Sámi people: two women in traditional jackets and hats and a child. In the background, you can’t see the globe, but rather the “Oscar statue” that was unveiled in 1883 with the king present (King Oscar II with his entourage at the Oscar statue on the Nordkapp plateau).

Fortunately, some individuals collect cards and have looked after cards. As far back as 1899, some have been sent to New York.

But Eines is not only interested in postcards, because, together with Per R. Dahl, he runs the largest second-hand and antique shop in Finnmark, with over 2,000 books, including some about local history. Their selection also includes records and CDs, furniture, and popular enamel signs in the store.

In former times, only the address was allowed to be written on the back of a postcard. The back of this card shows that it was being sent to Vermont in the United States of America.

In Nordkappfolk, there is a hand-colored postcard from Nordkapp with a stamp from July 3, 1903. It was not called a postcard at the time, but rather a “letter card,” and the magazine explains that until 1905, it was prohibited to write on the back of the card. This is written on the card itself: “Only the address is written on this page.” The card was sent to a person in “Georgia, USA.”

“This is the view we will see tonight. Daylight all night. We will also see where the seabirds live. When the summer is over, they fly away,” the tourists write on a card depicting Nordkapp and Hjelmøystauren, Norway’s most important tern bird colony.

A collector from Nordvågen, Magne Løvås, has contributed postcards to Nord­kappfolk, including postcards showing the statue of King Oscar, which stood on the spot where the globe stands today. The globe, which was built in 1978, is the symbol of Nordkapp as a global meeting place. It is one of the most photographed motifs in Norway.

Not far from the statue of King Oscar, the Norwegian flag flies proudly from the rooftop of a red cabin in a postcard dating to the 1950s.

“How far out can a person live?” asked the Italian priest Fransesco Negri (1623-1698), who came to the Nordkapp plateau at a time when one practically had to climb the steep hiking trail from a ship.

The magazine Nordkappfolk, compiled by the Nordkapp Historical Society and Nordkapp Museum, features postcards from North Cape through the years.

“Here I am at Nordkapp, at the far end of Finnmark, and I would like to say the farthest part of the whole world, as there is no place farther north that is inhabited by people. My thirst for knowledge is now satisfied, and I want to return to Denmark, and God willing, to the land of my birth,” Negri wrote in 1664.

His travelogues inspired others, and today, around 300,000 visitors come to the plateau each year. Some of the reasons for that may be visible in a card from the Norwegian Digital Museum, likely a hand-colored card from Christmas Eve 1903, featuring a Christmas and New Year’s greeting.

Viking legacy

A few hundred years before Negri, there were probably Vikings in the area. Traces of Viking graves have been found. A road in Gjesvær is named after the Viking Tore Hund (born around 990), a leader who is mentioned in Snorri Sturluson’s saga Heims­kringla, written around the year 1230.

Last year, there was a Viking festival with activities in Gjesvær and an art exhibition at the museum in Honningsvåg.

Eines invites everyone with an interest in postcards and Finnmark’s history to visit his website, f-eines.net, which features over 1,000 postcards from Finnmark.

Images courtesy of Ferdinand Eines

More images of vintage Norwegian postcards may be found online at the Norwegian Digital Museum: digitaltmuseum.org.

This article originally appeared in the March 2024 issue of The Norwegian American.

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Tove Andersson

Tove Andersson is a freelance journalist who writes about travel and culture. She conducts interviews for the street magazine Oslo while writing poetry and fiction. Jeg heter Navnløs (My name is nameless) was published in 2020. Her website is www.frilanskatalogen.no/frilanstove, and she can be reached at tove.andersson@skrift.no.