Carl Poul Petersen - Born November 28, 1895 in Copenhagen, Denmark - Died April 6, 1977 in Montreal, Canada.
"Master Danish-Canadian Silversmith"
Carl Poul Petersen was apprenticed to Georg Jensen, probably from the age of thirteen according to family information, for a five-year stint, the necessary duration of a journeyman-apprenticeship, after which time apprenticeship pieces were judged and approved and one became a master. The art school and trade workshop experience, and the master-apprentice workshop in design and design application, were the two major western craft education models overlapping the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
The artist-craftsman emigrated from Denmark with his wife, Inger Jensen (Georg Jensen's daughter) whom he had married in 1922. They arrived in 1929 in Montreal, Quebec at the start of the Depression, hard-hit by the financial crash, and with the silver market in sharp decline. Petersen was already an established master goldsmith as the trade was then called. According to his sons, their father had studied the fine arts in Copenhagen. It is even possible that he attended the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts. He had been a sculptor in his youth, and he had taught drawing in Copenhagen. During the 1920s, the young, sociable, personable, tee-totalling Petersen of the jazz age participated in the Arts and Crafts movement occurring in Danish craft circles. Studio crafts people, furniture designers, weavers and architects as well as silversmiths were all turning Denmark into a centre for the crafts industry.
The master silversmith was among the Danish émigrés to North America before the war who brought with them their rich heritage of craft and craft techniques. Since non-objective fine art has been so well-documented as mainstream Western art during the period that Petersen was active in Quebec, pluralism in the art community should now include and evaluate the role of the European émigrés and their unique contributions to provincial culture.
When he arrived in Montreal, Petersen was at first employed by Henry Birks & Sons Ltd. as their master goldsmith. He then went on his own briefly (1937-39) when he opened a small studio at 2024 McGill College Avenue, to return to Birks in 1939. His career was once more interrupted when silver could not be purchased with the commencement of World War II. Petersen joined the Canadian war effort employed in the manufacture of filters of aluminum and brass wool in demand for World War II Mosquito fighter planes made by the Canadian Wooden Aircraft Company.
Resuming his métier in 1944, Petersen moved to 1221 MacKay Street in downtown Montreal, purchasing a terrace in Prince Edward sandstone, built in 1887 by builder John Buhner, known as the Daniel Stroud house, and later as Lady MacKay's house. He set up shop in the basement, and on the first and second storeys, with a family residence on the third storey. With the encouragement of the late Saidye Bronfman (1897-1995), wife of the famous Seagram distiller Bronfman family, who took a sincere personal interest in the crafts, Petersen made a greater investment into his trade. Saidye and Samuel Bronfman's first orders were used to establish credit. The Bronfmans commissioned family presents, corporate gifts and gifts for recipients of awards for benevolent community and international service work, prompting others to follow suit.
C. P. Petersen ran his studio with his sons Arno, John Paul and Ole, who learned the craft from their father as teenagers. After the war, C. P. Petersen & Sons handled large orders for Americans as well as Canadians. Petersen designs for hand wrought flatware, hollowware, tableware and jewellery, like Georg Jensen's, employed simple, stumpy forms embellished with concentrated passages of ornament, usually fruit, floral or vegetal. Never organic, abstract or conceptual, Petersen designs are typified by the ornamental items of Georg Jensen himself, in the period 1912-23. Petersen was a conservative modernist, and this was expressed in terms of the spare designs he employed for forms. His concession to ornament manifested itself in beautifully-sculpted silver handles or finials for vessels and serving pieces.
According to a contemporary account dated 1947, the C. P. Petersen & Sons studio was importing four tons of silver yearly from Johnson Matthey Ltée and employing about twenty silversmiths on the premises. There was a hollow-ware specialist, a spinner, polisher, plater, chasers and engravers, jewellers, repairers and tableware specialists. Another half dozen worked on a small farm in eastern Ontario. Petersen trained Canadians, English and Danes for the standard five-year apprenticeship period.
The company also handled repair work, contract orders (for Mappins' or Peoples Jewellers for example) and custom work for the replating or redesign of jewellery. A family heirloom could be copied for an additional piece or two, or an object could even be constructed from a photograph a client might produce. The occasional Petersen rococo repoussé tea service or odd pieces that have surfaced, attest to this skill. Other silver techniques were employed on an irregular basis. The firm also made copper and gold work alone or in combination with silver; in addition copper jewellery was also produced. Petersen pieces are not dated; nevertheless, it is safe to say that there was not a continuity of style, and it is homogeneity that characterizes the production rather than heterogeneity. The firm also handled presentation pieces for various institutions, where stock or custom pieces were engraved to order with club and individual name. Pieces were stamped PP STERLING, or PETERSEN HANDMADE STERLING. Petersen's Registered Trademark, the Canadian Lion's Head hallmark was punched to the right of the company's name. The Canadian national mark was inaugurated by the Canadian government under licence in 1934. The capital letters PETERSEN were impressed on flatware in the last twenty years.
C. P. Petersen & Sons is best known for the prestigious and lucrative contract they won for the repair and engraving (stamping) of the names of teams and players on the Stanley Cup, a trade they established in the late 1940s.
The Stanley Cup was usually battered by revellers (Hockey players) after the championship game, and needed repairing, along with the annual task of engraving of the names of teams and players.
First in 1948, the NHL hired Petersen to redesign the Stanley Cup after the current Cup was getting too big - The Stovepipe Cup, and then again in 1957, NHL President Clarence Campbell commissioned Petersen to redesign the Stanley Cup after it became too cumbersome.
Petersen's real talent showed when he was secretly commissioned to replicate the Stanley Cup bowl in 1962 and then had a fellow named Barry Wilmont, a Danish engraver to replicate every scratch, dent and engraving on the new replica Stanley Cup bowl.
Wilmont was born in 1936 in Winnipeg, Canada and was taken to Denmark in 1940 to live with his grandmother's family. He returned to Canada in late 1962 or early 1963 with his wife, Liz, and his daughter, the first of their three children. He said his engraving skills helped him land work at the Henry Birks jewelry store soon after the family arrived in Montreal.
Petersen, who apparently heard through the grapevine that a master engraver from his homeland had recently arrived in Montreal and was working at Birks, came knocking in the spring of 1963 and invited him to his Mackay Street workshop.
Wilmont, a Canadian-born artist who had lived in the Danish capital for most of his life, was initially sworn to secrecy when he was asked to engrave the replica in 1963, but didn't really know why he was told to keep it to himself.
"When I arrived, he took me into this room where there were two Stanley cups," a 70-year-old Wilmont had recounted in Copenhagen in 2006. When Petersen explained in Danish what needed to be done, Wilmont was overtaken by a strange sense that he was flirting with trouble, suspecting Petersen was a thief. He had heard about the incident in Chicago the previous spring, but thought the Cup had actually been stolen.
"Please, please," Wilmont recalled telling Petersen in their mother tongue. "I don't want anything to do with this. I've heard about what happened in Chicago. Someone stole the Stanley Cup."
Petersen calmed Wilmont and explained that he had created a second Cup at the request of the NHL and now needed an engraver to painstakingly copy the many names and dates from the old trophy onto the new one. He was also to do the same with every nick and scratch on the old trophy.
Wilmont said he had no idea why Petersen, then 68, didn't use staff from his own company to do the work, but added that the silversmith made it clear he wanted him to engrave the new trophy. Perhaps it was because the work involved duplicating old engravings, a task with which Wilmont had expertise.
Wilmont said he was told to keep quiet about the project, and he was given six months to complete the work.
"Mr. Petersen said I shouldn't speak to anyone (about the assignment) for about 10 years," Wilmont said. "He said: 'Don't spread the word that you have the Stanley Cups (at home).' "
If someone knocked on his apartment door, he was to hide the trophies or cover them with blankets, Peterson said, according to Wilmont.
Wilmont says he seems to remember taking the two trophies, wrapped in blankets, by car to his apartment on Hingston Avenue, near Sherbrooke Street in Notre-Dame-de-Grace, but he can't remember whether it was Petersen or a cabbie who drove him home.
He quit Birks when he took the job, but he continued to take other contract work while he engraved the new Cup.
What was of tantamount importance was that the engraving had to be a precise copy of what was on the old Cup, Wilmont said. With cushions under the trophies to protect them and his dining-room table, Wilmont copied date after date, name after name. He used strips of special paper and a variety of powders and liquids to get a print from the old Cup before transferring the impressions left on paper to the new trophy. Then he engraved the impression on the new trophy using etching instruments. He repeated the process over and over before turning his attention to copying the nicks and scratches.
"I had to be very, very careful," Wilmont said, recalling that some of the engraving on the old trophy had been badly done while other work was "very beautiful."
With the trophies perched on his table, he said getting impressions from the old bowl proved to be awkward. He called Petersen to see if the bowl could be removed.
"Just twist it off like a lid of a jar," Petersen told him. When he removed the old bowl, he noticed how thin the silver from which it was made from had become. "The bowl felt like glass," he said.
He remembers the name Montreal AAA, which he engraved into the new bowl after getting an impression from the original. That Montreal team was the first club to win the trophy, in 1893.
Wilmont said he finished the job in about four months, and delivered the two trophies to Petersen on an unbearably hot day, so he thinks it must have still been summer, well before the start of 1963-64 NHL season. He said he received about $900 for the work.
According to a history of the Cup by Mitchell Szczepanczyk, only a few NHL officials and the Montreal silversmith who created the trophy, Carl Petersen, knew about the replica, first raised in victory by the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1964.
The Hockey Hall of Fame admits that documentation involving the history of the Stanley Cup during the earlier era is poor and that it has no record of Wilmont being the engraver. It does know that Petersen, who was born and raised in Denmark, was the official engraver of the Cup from 1948, and in 1962, he was given the task of replicating the entire trophy.
What the Hockey Hall of Fame did with the old trophy is unclear. In fact, some accounts have no mention of a replica being made in 1963. Some say the three rings or bands that formed the neck of the trophy were replaced in 1963 and sent to the Hockey Hall of Fame, where bands of earlier Stanley Cup trophies were also kept. Some say the old bowl was officially retired in 1969, and another says 1970.
It's not clear what happened at that time to the rings or bands that formed the barrel or bottom part of the trophy. Some reports seem to imply that most of the old bands are still part of the trophy that is presented to the winner at the end of the playoffs.
Wilmont said he was under the impression that the old Cup was stored in a vault in an Ottawa bank for many years.
The Petersen / Wilmont Stanley Cup (1963) is still in use today, and awarded to the NHL champions each spring.
Petersen's name is stamped on the bottom of the black base of the trophy presented to the Stanley Cup champions, according to Hall of Fame curator Phil Pritchard.
*Here is a little piece of Stanley Cup history not everyone knows about. Legend has it that the Montreal Canadiens stole and then melted down a band from the original Stanley Cup.
At some point in time the band featuring the 1928-29 Boston Bruins Stanley Cup championship had gone missing. No one seemed to know anything about it's whereabouts until a clue came about in 1981.
Claude Mouton wrote in his 1981 book The Montreal Canadiens: A Hockey Dynasty that a keepsake trophy created in 1972 to honour retired coach Toe Blake was made in part with the silver of the original Stanley Cup!
No one connected with the Canadiens has ever admitted any knowledge or accuracy of the story, but the myth that is out there is the Canadiens hated the Bruins so much that they happily melted down this band to create Blake's special trophy.