Postal officer Johan Bertrand Narvesen (1860–1937) was the one who established the firm called Narvesen Kioskkompagni. Through work as a travelling postal officer, he noticed the passengers’ need for reading material when travelling by train. In 1893 he was given the exclusive right to sell newspapers and travel literature on most of the State Railway’s lines (Oslo, Drammen and Hamar). Narvesen’s first kiosks were built on nine different railway stations in Norway in 1894. In 1896, Narvesen took over five town kiosks in Kristiania (Oslo). In 1919 the number had risen to 223. 135 of them were along railway lines, the rest in towns.
The Business Idea
Basically, the Narvesen kiosks were to sell literature to the travelers. In addition to newspapers, the kiosks sold magazines and so-called travel literature. Bertrand Narvesen had a neutral attitude to Norwegian daily press and to publications of a political nature. Regarding magazines and books, he maintained his right to make his own choices. Narvesen was not allowed to sell books from ordinary publishing firms. He therefore started his own publishing company, and this was probably the origin of the Norwegian term “kiosk literature”.
The Newspaper Bureau
The newspaper bureau was the flagship of the Kioskkompagniet. There were 178 Norwegian and 103 foreign daily papers, 87 domestic and 232 foreign magazines – all in all 600 different titles. It was the place politicians, journalists, artists, businessmen and others went to cover their specific needs for news and information.
The Tower Kiosk
In 1897, Narvesen announced an architectural competition for the most beautiful and prominent kiosks. The Tower Kiosk by Jørgen H. Berner won. Eight kiosks like this were erected in the capital. “An adornment for our capital” Dagbladet wrote in 1898. The Tower Kiosk was a cooperation between Narvesen and the telephone company in Kristiania. It consisted of a main room with one small room on each side. Originally, one room was used for telephoning, the other for writing telegrams.