The start-up and development of the industrial pulp mill sprang from two important inventions. One invention was the process of converting wood to pulp by mechanical pulping (grinding), and usage of the resulting pulp for paper. The method developed in Germany in the early 1840s. The second invention was the water turbine in the early 1870s, which gave a more efficient use of hydropower.
A/S Kistefos Træsliberi was founded by Consul Anders Sveaas in 1889, and was a factory for the production of mechanically produced wood pulp. The pulp mill was built at the waterfall Kistefossen in the river Randselva, and the location was perfect for a pulp mill because of the waterfall as a power source and the river as water supply for the production. The river also provided the easiest and cheapest possible transport route for the raw materials to the factory.
The wood pulp was an important basic product in the manufacture of cheap paper products. Mechanically produced wood pulp had to be mixed with cellulose (chemically produced wood pulp) to make paper. The higher proportion of wood pulp versus cellulose, the cheaper the paper. For instance, there was a lot of wood pulp in newspapers. This made newspapers cheap, and news was sought after by people in all walks of life as public education rose and illiteracy declined in Norway.
In 1955, production of wood pulp halted at Kistefos Træsliberi. In the autumn of 1953, a 30-year lease was signed between Follum Factories and Kistefos Træsliperi . The main features of the agreement was that Kistefos would continue as power and timber supplier for Follum at market costs, while Follum was to take over the operation and expenses of the pulp mill from the 1st of January 1954. On the 25th of June 1955, all grinding operations were transferred to Follum.
However, most of the machines, fixtures and equipment were left behind in the factory at Kistefoss when the machine roar subsided. The lease between Follum and Kistefos Træsliberi namely stated that the pulp mill at Kistefoss should be kept reasonably ready to resume production at any time, should either party revoke the agreement at a later date. This is a main reason as to why the pulp mill stands as intact as it does today.
There have been many pulp mills driven by hydroelectric power in Scandinavia; in Norway alone there have been around 100 pulp mills. The Industrial Museum, located in the production premises of A/S Kistefos Træsliberi, is the only pulp mill that has kept both buildings and production inventory practically complete. Therefore, the Kistefos-Museet conveys industrial history that is unique in a Norwegian and Scandinavian context, and stands today as a monument to the early days of an industrialized, modern Norway!