Karsten Petersen


Born: April 21, 1776
Died: October 31, 1857

Karsten Petersen was a joiner in the Salem Congregation who operated throughout the first half of the nineteenth century. Petersen is perhaps the most famous cabinetmaker in the Salem area. His work can be seen throughout the area in preserved homes and reconstructions.

He was born on April 21, 1776 in Wichkrug by Flensburg on the Jutland peninsula facing the Baltic Sea. He is first mentioned in the Salem letters as coming to the town as the teacher in the Boys School in September 1806. It was noted that Petersen needed to learn a trade, and then venture out on mission work with Brother Christian Reichel with the Creek Indians. They were trained in joinery and were to support themselves through their work as craftsmen. There they worked from 1807-1813 where they encountered hurricanes, and illnesses. However the records remained positive of their work there.

Petersen began setting up shop in late 1813 and by 1814 was running his own turning lathe in the Single Brother’s House in Salem. He focused primarily on household furniture such as tables and chairs, as well as spinning wheels. In 1815 he was elected a member of the Aufseher Collegium for the first time. His business was doing so well in Salem by 1816 that he sought to buy the property around the Single Brother’s House in which he worked and rent it out to Brother Hulthin, the leader of the Single Brothers. By November of 1816 he had purchased the lot between the Single Brother’s Garden and the Distillery and its buildings.

At this time Petersen married and had two sons William and Edward. They joined his father when they came of age working in the joinery shop. The Petersens worked on producing case furniture primarily. His shop was very productive and took in several apprentices including Levin Breiz, Alexander Meinung, and Edward Belo. However Belo soon left for the shop of Brother Thomas Holland so he could obtain more work.

Karsten Petersen founded one of the most prolific joiner shops in Salem. Thanks to surviving records much is known about his person and practice. Though he died in 1857 his sons William and Edward continued operating his shop until the end of the nineteenth century, leaving behind an undeniable legacy in Salem building.