Karsten Petersen & Sons Exhibit

Old Salem Museums & Gardens Press Release

Karsten Petersen & Sons Exhibit To Be On Display at Blum House

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Scott Carpenter

March 17, 2014 – Old Salem Museums & Gardens is pleased to announce a new exhibit, “Karsten Petersen & Sons: A Trade Shop in Transition,” which will open March 21, 2014, in the J. Blum House at 724 S. Main Street in Old Salem Museums & Gardens. The exhibit will showcase examples of the furniture and equipment produced in the Petersen family shop and explore the Petersens’ influence on furniture style in Salem in the 19th century.

At the beginning of the 19th century, new woodworkers came to Salem. One of these was Karsten Petersen (1776-1857) who was originally from Christiansfeld, Denmark. He arrived in 1806 but left shortly thereafter to serve as a Moravian missionary and tradesman at the Creek mission established by Colonel Benjamin Hawkins, the chief United States agent to the Creek Indians.

Petersen returned to Salem in 1813, set up a turner’s shop and focused on the production of chairs, tables, and textile equipment such as reels and spinning wheels. Before long, Petersen’s establishment transitioned into a shop that also produced case furniture in the new classical style. Old Salem has one of Petersen’s original account books, and as a result knows more about the types of things Petersen produced and the kind of work he did (repairs, etc.) than they do about any other Salem cabinetmaker.

“Petersen and his sons, William (1817-1898) and Edward (1827-1906), operated one of the most important cabinet shops in 19th-century Salem,” said Johanna Brown, Director of Collections and Curator of Moravian Decorative Arts at Old Salem Museums & Gardens. “Although there were other cabinetmakers in Salem at the time, some of which were founded by Petersen apprentices, the Petersen shop is credited with defining the style of mid-19th century Salem furniture.  After their father’s death in 1857, William and Edward continued the shop until the end of the 19th century.”

Old Salem Museums & Gardens is one of America’s most comprehensive history attractions. Its museums—the Historic Town of Salem, the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts (MESDA) and the Gardens at Old Salem—engage visitors in an educational and memorable historical experience about those who lived and worked in the early South. Old Salem Museums & Gardens is located at 600 South Main Street in Winston-Salem. For more information call 336-721-7300 or visit oldsalem.org.