Born in 1836, on the island of Rømø, Peter Møller was given the middle name Mærsk after his mother, Kirsten Pedersdatter Mærsk, whose family originated from West Slesvig. The name Mærsk can be traced back to 1617, to Anders Nielsen Mersch, who lived in the town Ballum, just south of Ribe.
Peter Mærsk Møller first went to sea as a cabin boy in 1850 and passed his mate’s examination in 1855. After having gained experience both on land and on the seas, he took up a position with Jeppesen, a leading ship owner in Dragør, just south of Copenhagen. Not only did he captain Mr. Jeppesen’s ships, he also became his son in law when he married Anna in 1864. They had 10 children together.
Captain Peter Mærsk Møller commanded several schooners and barques owned by his father-in-law. One was the barque VALKYRIEN which he took command of in 1876. On the night of 11 December 1883, on a journey from Newport, USA to Glasgow, VALKYRIEN wrecked in rough weather off the Scottish west coast. The captain and most of the crew was helped ashore by local fishermen, except for the ship’s boy who drowned.
Shortly thereafter, Peter Mærsk Møller decided to move into steamships and after having completed his examinations as a steamship master, Peter Mærsk Møller acquired the small steamer LAURA on 30 June 1886 and set up the Steamship Company Laura at the new family home, Villa Anna, in Svendborg.
He slowly started educating his sons to take part in his new venture. One son became a navigator like his father, two became engineers and the fourth A.P. Møller, was trained within shipping. In this way, he formed a small team to take over the family business in due time.
While A.P. Møller was working in St. Petersburg during 1899-1903, father and son discussed the possibility to set up a new steamship company. The result was the Steamship Company Svendborg, today’s A.P. Moller – Maersk. Peter Mærsk Møller was instrumental in acquiring the needed share capital to buy the company’s first ship in 1904 and remained interested in the business as it evolved until his death in 1927.