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By David John Smith

Telemark was Norway’s ‘Wild West’, full of mystery, music and fairytales, a land of natural beauty from the rugged mountains in the north to the rocky coastline in the south.

The settlement that later became Notodden was located in Upper Telemark, a defiantly independent region. Here, small farm and landowners honored their Norse Viking tradition and rituals as they had for many centuries – with protection and vengeance.

This was a land of legend, respected – and feared.

Taming the Wild Waterfalls

In 1905, this world changed forever when Industrialist Sam Eyde arrived in Notodden and declared he was going to tame the thundering waterfalls of the region of Notodden and Rjukan to the north to create new industries driven by hydroelectric power – a radical new concept.

Photo Credit: NIA

Money was a challenge. Norway had gained independence in that same year of 1905, and was one of Europe’s poorest countries. Searching for investors, Sam Eyde travelled to Paris, to New York, to Stockholm. He raised more money than all the Norwegian banks combined.

Eyde and Professor Kristian Birkeland tamed the waterfalls, built the hydroelectric power plants, transmission lines, factories, transport systems and towns to manufacture nitrogen fertilizer. Their work marked a turning point for humanity – so important in ending the massive hunger disaster of the early 1900s.

The 2nd Industrial Revolution – Powered by Nature – began here in Notodden and neighboring Rjukan, Norway.

Photo Credit: NIA

Time to Create

In just a few years, the world’s most modern industries were employing thousands in these boomtowns. A melting pot of people came from all over Norway and beyond with their cultures, their music and their traditions to work for the major industries of Norsk Hydro and Tinnfos.

Norway’s first unions were created. Jobs were safe as black smoke filled the skies. Notodden and Rjukan were the first with unionization, the 8-hour work day, all taking place at the first industrial hydroelectric driven factories in the world.

Photo Credit: NIA

The Sound of Notodden – Music and Machinery

Now for the first time, workers had time at the end of their work shifts to pursue their own interests as prosperity and creativity went hand in hand with hard work.

The traditional music of legendary musicians such as the Myllergutten fiddler (Millerboy) from the mountains of Telemark were now brought together with the music being made in the new industrial boomtown.

The Sound of Notodden was taking form.

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