Illuminating Carl W. Peters
On June 21, 2016, Illuminated History held its fifth annual cemetery tour in which actors portrayed residents of the burying ground. The tour, which was sponsored by the Perinton Historical Society, took place at the Fairport Historical Museum. Mount Pleasant Cemetery in the village of Fairport, New York, was the focus of the tour.
Carl W. Peters was a renowned artist. Born in Rochester, New York, he moved to Fairport as a child. Carl’s love of art was apparent at an early age, and it was a passion that would last his entire life. His “Fairport” scene, on permanent exhibit at the Fairport Historical Museum, is just one of many murals that were commissioned to him around the city of Rochester.
In this Illuminated History series, each of the scripts are based on in depth historical research, although some creative license may have been taken. Carl W. Peters was portrayed by Craig Caplan.
Evening, folks. I’m not quite sure why I’m here this evening. My family wasn’t influential like the DeLands or industrious like Mr. Parce. You see, I’m just an artist. My name is Carl Peters.
Since I’ve been invited to tell my story, I suppose I should get to it. I was born in Rochester November 14, 1897, the eldest child of Frederick and Louise Meyers Peters. We moved to Fairport when I was 11 and bought a place on Jefferson Avenue, at the corner of Sandy Hill.
After we moved here, my passion for painting went into overdrive as people started to take notice of my work. I designed some post cards for the Stecher [pronounced STEK’-er] Lithographic Company and also some covers for McClure’s and other magazines. In 1917, the Fairport Herald printed a story about me winning the best poster contest to advertise the pure food show to be held in Convention Hall, Rochester.
That was nice and all, but I didn’t paint for the awards. I painted because I had a love for it. Best thing in the world to make a living at a job you love.
The Great War came along just as my career was heating up. I joined up with the 15th Cavalry and spent a year overseas. I was fortunate to be assigned to the Camouflage Corps as a designer. I’d like to think I saved a few lives with my camouflage painting, despite the fact that I wasn’t on the front lines. It’s pretty ironic, though. I had always wanted to paint in France. It just never occurred to me that I would be painting camouflage on military equipment! By the way, I did get furlough in the fall of 1918 and managed to get some nice sketches done while in Paris.
After the war, I settled in New York City for awhile, and then moved on to Massachusetts in 1925. Winters were spent painting in the Rochester area, and summers in Massachusetts. I’d built a new studio at my place in Fairport, and it was exhilarating to be out in the snow looking for bursts of color in an otherwise white landscape. Most of my paintings have a pop of red in them somewhere. It just helps bring the paintings to life.
My first marriage didn’t work out, but it gave me two beautiful daughters. My second marriage, to Blanche Peaslee, lasted over thirty years. You see, Blanche was also an artist and she understood my need to paint.
Since I’ve been old enough to hold a brush, I’ve painted every day. I’d still paint if I could hold a paintbrush. This
otherworldly stuff just isn’t conducive to that. I’m most known for my landscapes, though I’ve been known to paint a portrait or two. Your museum actually has a self-portrait that is on loan from a local art collector. I feel it’s an accurate representation of my face.
Speaking of my face, there’s a legend that I painted myself into one of the people in the mural upstairs. In fact, there’s another legend that I painted my face into each of the people in the mural, even the women! I’ll let you be the judge of that. I’m just the artist.
Since we’re in this museum building that used to be the library, let’s talk about that mural upstairs. It’s something I’m very proud of, the fact that I was chosen to paint that mural through the Works Progress Administration, also known as the WPA. I wanted it to reflect the history of our community, the farmers and the laborers and everyone who worked hard to make Perinton what it is today. Throughout the city, more of my murals still exist, though the Fairport mural is close to my heart since it represents my hometown.
I died July 7, 1980 at age 82. I’ve got a nice spot at Mount Pleasant under a large tree. Hmm…this would be an interesting landscape to paint. If only I could hold a paintbrush again!
Script by Vicki Masters Profitt
(c) 2016 Vicki Profitt’s Illuminated History