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The History of King Oscar Canned Sardines

The Stavanger Canning Company, or Stavanger Preserving Company, was founded in Norway in 1873 and began packing smoked sardines in oil. While sardines can be made from 22 different types of fish, Stavanger used brisling, a member of the herring family. Intent on sharing the Norwegian specialty around the world, Stavanger began exporting canned sardines in 1880. In 1893, the company introduced Norwegian smoked sardines to the United States at the Chicago World’s Fair. In 1902, King Oscar II of Norway and Sweden first tasted smoked brisling sardines from one of Stavanger’s preeminent canneries, the Christian Bjelland Company. The King loved them so much that he allowed the company to use his name and image, and the King Oscar brand was born! Notably, the packaging still includes a message stating that King Oscar’s name and likeness is in use “by special royal permission.” The company even updated the King’s image on the packaging several times to create an ideal match to his appearance during his lifetime. In 1903, Christian Bjelland began exporting King Oscar Sardines to the United States. (Bjelland was knighted for his service to the industry in 1907.) By 1920, King Oscar’s sardines had become famous internationally. Today, King Oscar Sardines are one of the most popular and widely available canned sardine brands in the world.

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