The 1850s were the golden age of shipbuilding on Fanø. There were nine shipyards, and all together they employed 100 workers and a number of sub-contractors. From 1768 to 1896, a total of 1100 ships were built on Fanø - in the beginning a lot of small ships, but gradually they became bigger. From the mid-1860s, the local shipyards were no longer able to meet the demands. At the same time, the harbour in Sønderho was beginning to have problems with silting.
In the 1880s, the shipping companies went from wooden ships to iron and steel ships, and the last Fanø ship was built in 1896. The size of the ship also made it impossible to use Fanø as harbour. Sailing ships were also replaced by steam ships, and by 1919, all shipping companies had moved to other harbours.
The maritime era brought wealth and inspiration from other parts of the world to Fanø. The many beautiful mansions built by captains are still there to remind us of this.