Christen Christensen, JR
IN the circles of those who are filled with optimistic expectancy as to the future development of America's foreign commerce much interest is aroused by the new enterprises of progressive men who are aiding in that development.
Before the world war the foreign trade of this country was a comparatively small matter. We raised a large surplus of various commodities, such as cotton, grain and meats, more than we could consume, and sold them to avid and eager foreign markets. In a few manufacturing lines also we had attained such precedence that there was a lively foreign demand for them. But outside of cotton, tobacco and foodstuffs we imported more than we exported, and in many parts of the world had become almost a stranger to commerce.
In an older day of our history the Yankee skipper and his fast-sailing wooden craft was a familiar feature in every port. Merchant shipowners scraped the shores of the seven seas in search of cargoes, and it was the jealous fear of other nations that the young Republic of the West would soon outstrip them in the race for ocean mastery. But when the day of the iron and steel ship came the United States lagged behind. The Confederate privateer scare drove many of our ships to British registry during the Civil War, and hostile navigation laws prevented them from coming back when the war was over. The same laws discouraged the building of American ships for overseas trade and encouraged the building and use of American bottoms for coastwise trade by prohibiting such voyages to all but American-built ships. So that the American flag became an unaccustomed banner in foreign ports, and such foreign trade as we had was carried almost exclusively in foreign bottoms.
There were a few manufacturers and producers who had the vision to see that there were markets in many parts of the world worth cultivating, and these, in spite of the small place of the American flag on the high seas, expanded their trade through the use of foreign ships. In this important business the shipping firms of Norway took a prominent place, and thus the Norwegian flag became one of the most welcome in the American ports of the Atlantic seaboard. This large and growing business dcrli? by the Norwegian ships brought to New York a number of men of Norway, experts in all that pertains to maritime life and industry, who have become important members of the city's foremost marine circles.
During the great war, when the need of ships from America to carry cargoes to European and other foreign ports became urgent, it was Norway which came to the front with the largest amount of vailable tonnage, and it was fearless Norwegian mariners and crews who most bravely faced the submarine menace and other dangers to keep America's commerce moving.
When the conditions so developed as to make New York the most important and active of the world's ports, with opportunities for indefinite and continuous commercial expansion, some of Norway's ablest and most successful shipping men came to New York to become important factors in this impending development and help in organizing American adventures with international trade.
Among these recent accessions to the ranks of New York's prominent and successful business men is Chr. Christensen, Jr., shipowner, ship broker and chartering agent, with headquarters at 32 Broadway. Mr. Christensen, who is a young man twenty-seven years of age, has had a career of remarkable achievement, and has already attained a success almost without precedent among men of his years.
Modern scientists are fond of giving much credit to heredity. Chr. Christensen, Jr., has had every advantage in that respect, for he is a Norwegian by birth and descent, and Norway, from the time of the Vikings to the present day, has been the world's greatest nation of seafarers, in comparison to their numbers. Mr. Chr. Christensen, Jr., is descended, both in paternal and maternal lines, from men who have for many generations been connected with ships and maritime interests. His father, Commander Chr. Christensen, was a pioneer in the whaling industry of Norway, and back of him were generations of mariners who built and commanded their own vessels. Commander Chr. Christensen founded his own shipyard, from which were turned out many notable vessels, including the famous "Viking." The products of this yard attained more than national fame, and its business grew to large proportions and was incorporated under the name of Framnaes Mekaniske Verksted, of which Commander Christensen remains chairman of the Board of Directors.
Chr. Christensen, Jr., was born in a house located in his father's shipyard in Sandefjord, May 2.6, 1891. His education, which is very thorough, was acquired in schools in Norway, England and France. From France he returned to Norway to serve the military training required of all Norwegians, which he completed in the Royal Guard of the Norwegian Army.
When that term was completed he came to New York, where he joined the staff of the large insurance firm of Wilcox, Peck and Hughes, marine insurance brokers and average adjusters, in which connection he diligently acquired a thorough knowledge of marine insurance, and valuable insight into the maritime conditions and prospects in the port of New York. He also during the same period became the Scandinavian representative of the Tietjen & Lang drydock and repair plant.
The period when Mr. Christensen came to New York and became actively connected with these prominent firms was that just before and just after the great European conflict was forced upon an astounded world. During a year or two before that war began there was an awakening interest in the subject of development of a greatly enlarged export trade in American products, natural and manufactured. The few great enterprises that had ventured into foreign markets (largely using Norwegian bottoms for their overseas transportation), had made a success of it. The great opportunities that lay open to an export trade in American products became one of the most active topics of commercial discussion and inquiry. There were those who said that much enlargement could not be expected until this country had established its own merchant marine.
But there were others who, while admitting the desirability of more ships under American registry, argued that it was not necessary to wait for them, and pointed to the fact that most of the American shippers who had established foreign markets for their products had used the ships of other nations, especially Norway, and the tendency toward great expansion of foreign trade was one of the most visible of commercial movements. The launching of the German offensive through Belgium throttled that tenien:y for a time. It was not long after the war began that it became apparent that it would soon bring a great increase in the demand for tonnage to move supplies for the belligerent;. f:r - r. :h Arr.er 02. was practically the only available res:.;:
Mr. Christensen, being :r. the gr:mu mi s related to American marine inrere to accurately judge the trend :f events mi to see where there was a great enlargement r 0 0 :m- nity for ships to engage in - oem York and various European port;
His experience here, combined with his lifelong training in maritime affairs in h nmive country, gave him a mental and practical equipment for his subsequent career, which hi; or mm of great value. He returned to X m a - :? and established his own company. Chr. Christea- sen, Jr., A/S of Sandefjord, which at onoe begin to operate a fleet of modern steamshio; 0 :h aggregated thirty-two thousand tons. He hm tin sen a time when there was a large ooomomm for ocean-going tonnage, and his success was immediate and continuous. This gave him encouragement to organize another corporation, which u 1 named Chr. Christensen, Jr.. A S of Christiania, which engaged also in the ownership and operation of steamships. The headquarters of these two companies are at Storgaten 6, Sandefjord. and at Karl Johan 27, Christiania. These enterprises have been built up to a position of marked success, although Mr. Christensen, like nearly all Norwegian shipowners, has sustained severe losses from U-boat attacks. He has attained distinguished prominence among the shipping men of his native land.
Norwegian vessels have for many years held an important place in connection with the freight- carrying overseas trade between American and foreign ports, and the relations between Norweg- :an and American shipping men have been very cordial. Men of Scandinavian, and especially of X orwegian, birth or extraction have long formed an important element among those representing maritime interests in New York. Among the many strains which enter into the makeup of our composite American life none is sturdier, truer or more valuable than that of this Viking blood. In none of the other vocations has Norwegian participation been more valuable than in our maritime activities, for which the men of this race are most admirably adapted by reason of their demonstrated mastery of every variety of seafaring business. Many Norwegians are connected with maritime interests in New York, enjoying excellent standing and repute.
To the number of these Mr. Chr. Christensen, Jr., came in 1917 as a welcome and valued addition. Young, vigorous, successful, alert, he entered upon his business life here with favorable connections because of his important operations in Norway. He organized his business here as Chr. Christensen, Jr., Inc., and at the head of this American enterprise has already built up a business sound in quality and large in volume. It has, however, not reached its full development because Mr. Christensen's plans, already well matured, aim at one of the most comprehensive programs of expansion which will make his American company here one of the foremost participants in the commanding eminence of New York as a center of international trade.
For a situation such as that which has wrought so great a transformation and realignment of the world's shipping interest, no quality is of greater value than that of foresight. Mr. Christensen has shown himself as possessing this in high degree, for he was one of the first Norwegians to place orders for new ships in American yards, thereby securing a supply of the tonnage necessary for the carrying out of his plans for the development of his enterprise, which include not only the creation of a new fleet of his own to operate under the Norwegian flag in commerce between America and foreign ports, but also the launching of cargo steamers for various corporations in Norway for whom he has placed orders
with American yards, to replace torpedoed ships.
He has thus been a leader in a new and important commercial connection between this country in a direction where both will greatly benefit. The exigencies of war have compelled the United States to increase the shipbuilding resources of the country to the highest possible standard as to quality, and to the greatest attainable capacity. But now that the feverish speed of wartime production of ships has been relaxed, this country can continue supplying its own shipping needs, and at the same time welcome and promptly fill shipping orders from other nations, and especially from Norway. Through the friendly efforts of Mr Christensen and other far-seeing men the replacement of Norwegian tonnage losses can soon be made with American aid.
The corporation of Chr. Christensen, Jr., Incorporated, is New York representative of the two Norwegian corporations of Chr. Christensen, Jr., A/S of Sandefjord, and Chr. Christensen, Jr., A/S of Christiania, before mentioned. These corporations, with their important fleets, have a large business as cargo carriers between Norway and America, conducted from this end by Mr. Christensen's American corporation, which also charters vessels for all kinds of ocean voyages, and acts as broker for the buying and selling of ocean-going ships. The business of the company up to the present has been largely in commerce between Norway and the United States, but Mr. Christensen is organizing his plans for participation in general international trade. His training has given him a knowledge of the world's markets which he proposes to apply to the future development of his business to cover world-wide trade, when his company will establish branch houses in all the principal ports and commercial centers of the world.
Through these organizations, with the wonderful resources they command, the excellent and practically world-wide connections they have established, and the close and sympathetic touch with the world's markets which they will make, Mr. Christensen will greatly benefit his operations both in Norway and the United States and contribute to a very appreciable growth in the overseas trade of United States ports on the Atlantic seaboard, and especially New York. With practically unlimited shipping resources, this New York corporation will soon be built up to a position that tonnage can be made available at practically every place and for any kind of cargo.
Mr. Christensen has become identified with the various other maritime interests in this country. In association with Christoffer Hannevig and Finn Hannevig he incorporated the Pacific Motor Schooner Corporation, with headquarters at 32 Broadway, New York. This corporation, which has been organized with a capital of $200,000, is being equipped to operate power schooners in Pacific waters. Mr. Christensen is the managing owner of this corporation, which will occupy a new and important field of commercial enterprise under the most favorable conditions of resources and management.
Other subsidiary corporations, chiefly owned and controlled by Chr. Christensen, Jr., Inc., have been organized under the laws of the State of New York. One of these is Victory Carriers, Inc., owning and operating the tanker "Pinthis," built for it by the Tank Ship Building Corporation, in its yard at Newburgh, N. Y., and launched August 9, 1919. This tanker, of 1,750 tons capacity, begun its trial trip in November, 1919, under charter for business between the Gulf and Atlantic ports of the United States.
Two others of these corporations are the Mildred Motor Ship Corporation, and the Avance Navigation Company, both shipowning companies subsidiary to Chr. Christensen, Jr., Inc.
He is thus applying to his American business the same methods and qualifications that brought him to a position of leading prominence in the shipping business in Norway. From every standpoint his career has been one of success. Trained to the maritime business in every effective way, both technical and practical, he came into the business at a time when the demand for shipping had made a special opportunity to enter it. Combining executive ability with judgment and foresight he built up his enterprises to a position of great strength, and his financial standing also became impregnable.
The energy and enterprise he has brought to bear in building up these interests, and the efficient way in which he has coordinated them so that they mutually help each other, gives strong promise of their assured success. He keeps a watchful eye on each, makes frequent visits to Norway, and he makes most careful selection of the men who head the various departments, so that they are all most efficiently conducted.
He has built up his own position and established his own success in a career that is still in its early stages. Having made his Norwegian enterprises solid and successful, Mr. Christensen came to the United States, where his previous experience had prepared him for a favorable start, and launched upon independent business in a line where he was able to establish himself quickly and at the same time help to serve Norway's needs at a time when the restrictions placed upon the shipment of goods to Norway were being partially lifted so as to permit much needed supplies bought here to be forwarded to destination.
Mr. Christensen has entered upon his career in this country with a permanent and well-defined purpose. He has laid his foundations deep and sure, and when his ships, now being built, are launched will be in a position to greatly enlarge his shipping operations and to take a strong and effective part in the building up of a trade that will contribute in no small degree to the prestige and power of this country in foreign commerce. He has large interests in insurance and other business corporations in this country and has made connections here which enable him to take a full and vigorous share in such enterprises as his judgment dictates to be available and advisable. He has the personal characteristics of an accomplished man of affairs, uses careful discrimination in the selection of managers and associates, and keeps in close personal touch with his various enterprises at all points of the far-flung line of hi; activities. There has never been a more opp:r- tune time for a man of such qualifications to establish such enterprises here as those of which Mr. Christensen is the creator and head.
He is a life member of the Royal Yacht Club and of the Royal Automobile Club of Norway.