John Munro Longyear

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John Munro Longyear c. 1904
Memorial to John Munro Longyear in Longyearbyen

John Munro Longyear (15 April 1850 – 28 May 1922), a noted developer of timber and mineral lands in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan,[1] became the central figure behind the Arctic Coal Company which surveyed and mined coalfields on Spitsbergen, now Svalbard, from 1905 to 1916. This company developed a settlement on Spitsbergen able to accommodate up to around 500 people which became known as Longyear City, now Longyearbyen, adjacent Advent Bay.[2]

Born in Lansing, Michigan to US Congressman John W. Longyear, Longyear served as mayor of Marquette, Michigan, in 1890–91.[3] He was one of the founders, c. 1890, of the Huron Mountain Club near Big Bay, Michigan. In 1906 he founded the Arctic Coal Company with long-time associate Frederick Ayer and several other small shareholders. John Munro Longyear was the main owner of the Arctic Coal Company with headquarters in Boston, Massachusetts. Longyear had visited Svalbard in 1901, and bought the Trondhjem Spitsbergen Kulkompani in 1906.

Store Norske Spitsbergen Kulkompani started as a consortium of Norwegian investors in 1916. It purchased Arctic Coal Company's and Ayer and Longyear's lands and operations on Spitsbergen in that year. They went on to develop major coal-mining operations in the Advent Valley region and at Sveagruva, originally a Swedish coal-mining operation.

Longyear died in Brookline, Massachusetts. His wife was Mary Beecher Longyear,[1] née Mary Hawley Beecher.


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