A blog post

Workers’ rights – in the Freia perspective

Posted on the 16 January, 2012 at 10:51 pm Written by in Research

When asked about what has made the deepest impressions on him, through his career,  researcher and research director Erik Rudeng especially notes Johan Throne-Holst (1868-1946), the founder of Freia, in an inteview in the newspaper Aftenposten published 30.4.2010, see http://www.aftenposten.no/kultur/article3629825.ece#.TxSi4tWwV2M.

Rudeng argues that the Freia fabric hall with its paintings by Edvard Munch became “the Aula of the east” of Oslo, a main academic forum of working class people. He argues that Throne-Holst was an entrepeneur and successful capitalist long before his time, with contributions to science as well as work-place democracy.

Rudeng says (my translation) that “Throne Holsts’ initiatives to our food research and social research is a chapter by itself. Towards  the end of his life he envisioned a grand library as the heart of the factory. He liked to quote what one of his inspirations, the famous English industry builder and filantrope lord Leverhulme, said about his work: ‘I like to see some things being done'”.

I did not know about lord Leverhulme, and checked it out. JTH must have refered to the lord at his time, William Lever (1851-1925), a capitalist building soap factories by a very radical scheme, for its time, of improving worker welfare and input.



This quotes, “In the opinion of Lord Leverhulme ‘high wages, bonuses, premiums or piece work, apart from a system of co-partnership can alone bring no solution of labor difficulties. Only the true spirit of co-partnership can tend in this direction, and, by combining the democratic with the individualistic attributes of human nature will result not only higher total earnings but greater efficiency, happier life and improved mental condition.'”


This shows how his advanced capitalist arguments were met in the debate at the time.

Rudeng has published a study of JTH and Freia in his book Sjokoladekongen / The Chocolate King. Freia was founded in 1889 and bought by Johan Throne-Holst soon after, in 1892. JTH then developed the factory to become the main Norway chocolate factory. Freia was engaged in work environment issues in many ways including the hall and a park. Based on the success in Oslo, the family in 1916 extended the company to the Swedish factory Marabou in Vasby near Stockholm. In the early 1990s, it expired as an independent unit (bought by Kraft General Foods Holding Norway Inc).

Johan Throne-Holst was my mother’s mother’s father. My mother, Harriet Holter, got a lot of intellectual and emotional inspiration from her maternal grandfather, and was very fond of him. She cherished her youth memories of him including their exciting intellectual exchanges. She felt that someone had recognized and respected her, as a child. I wish I had met him, but I was born six years after his death.

This photo is taken from Rudeng’s book. Harriet 16 years (1938) enthusiastically underlined her name under this photo, that she mailed to her grandfather.

Read more: http://www.adressa.no/nyheter/trondheim/byens_gater/article787039.ece