Fanoe is a proud maritime island, which from the middle of the 18th century until the end of the 19th century was home to a number of shipping companies that sailed all over the world. In 1899, the Fanoe shipping companies owned the second largest ship tonnage in Denmark, surpassed only by Copenhagen.
It is impressive that a small island like Fanoe with a few thousand inhabitants has had such a strong position in commercial shipping. The success started in 1741, when the inhabitants bought Fanoe free from the king and thus got the right to build and own ships. Shipping quickly became of great importance to Fanoe, and it succeeded in building up a large domestic sailing ship fleet, which was later engaged in international shipping.
At the beginning of the 19th century and a hundred years on, life on Fanoe was closely linked to shipping on international trade routes. This trade in foreign countries greatly strengthened Fanoe's economy, and even more ships were built. Fanoe experienced an unparalleled development, and the activities provided prosperity in Soenderho and later in Nordby.
It was the opening of trade with China that became the starting point for a rapid development of Fanoe's maritime history. In the 1860s, the first ship from Fanoe, the brig Conrad, came to China. Conrad was built in 1863 specifically for Chinese sailing. Conrad was owned by shipowner and master Hans Mathiasen Clausen on Fanoe.
The Fanoe sailors came home with luxury goods from China, including especially silk made in China. The silk was used for the Fanoe women's scarves. Fanoe has a proud folk costume tradition and the scarves were used for head and neck clothing. The costumes are still used on festive occasions, such as birthdays, weddings, town parties and at dance events.
The folk costume is another sign of Fanoe's prosperity in connection with shipping and contact with distant lands. The traditional clothing in the areas around Fanoe were poor to look at, and they were often made of simple cotton flour. Fanoe's folk costumes, on the other hand, consist of fine textiles, such as silk brought home by the sailors from China to their girlfriends and wives. The sailors also brought home other luxury goods from China, such as porcelain, tea and lacquerware.