In 1908 master cabinetmaker Carl Hansen opened a furniture workshop in Odense, Denmark and quickly became well-known the high quality of his work. The first real factory opened in 1915, specializing in bespoke furniture for bedroom suites and dining room sets.
The Great Depression affected furniture sales in Denmark hard, including Carl Hansen. In 1934 his second-oldest son and master cabinetmaker, Holger Hansen, took over the business after his father. The company survived these tough times by having a contract with the American sewing machine manufacturer Singer for the production of wooden cases for some of their models. Holger Hansen also set up a small-scale export of furniture to Sweden. At some point the company changed name to Carl Hansen & Søn.
After WW2 Carl Hansen & Søn, engaged sales manager Ejvind Kold Kristensen, and he kept a close eye on the new breed of emerging Danish furniture designers, such as Finn Juhl, Hans J. Wegner and Børge Mogensen. Kold Kristensen was especially impression the young Hans J. Wegner, whose designs won critical acclaim at exhibitions, but not known in the wide population. He knew that Wegner would be a great asset and propel Carl Hansen & Søn into the future. He wanted Wegner to design furniture pieces suited for mass production.
In 1949 Wegner and Carl Hansen & Søn embarked on a joined furniture adventure with Kold Kristensen as lead sales man. The first chair was the iconic CH24 or Wishbone Chair, put into production in 1950 and is to this day the most popular Wegner Chair in the product range. Wegner three other chairs for Carl Hansen & Søn in 1949, all put into production along the CH24.
Dedicating the majority of the furniture production to a rather unknown designer was a huge gamble for Holger Hansen at the time. The four chairs were not immediate successes until a few years later as the interest in Wegner’s designs grew both in Denmark and abroad.
Along working with Carl Hansen & Søn, Wegner designed furniture for four other Danish manufacturers, on the encouragement of Kold Kristensen. In the 1951 the cooperation between Wegner, Kold Kristensen and the five Danish furniture makers was formalized and the company ‘Salesco’ – an unique sales and marketing company that promoted Wegner’s work both in Denmark and abroad during the 1950s and 1960s. Salesco consisted of Carl Hansen & Søn, who produced chairs, Getama produced furniture pieces with cushions and beds, A.P. Stolen produced the upholstered furniture pieces, Ry-Møbler produced the shelves, carbines and the likes, while Andreas Tuck produced the tables.
With Salesco Wegner ensured that his all of his designs were produced at places where he could oversee and control the production. Salesco also began a comprehensive exhibition and advertisement activity targeted on end-consumers.
Even though Salesco played a very important part in capturing the internationally interest in Danish Design, and was a huge success, it did not last. Kold Kristensen let in order to work with the former apprentice of Wegner, young Poul Kjærholm, and in 1962 Holger Hansen died suddenly. Salesco ended during the 1960s.
The widow of Holger Hansen continued Carl Hansen & Søn, and kept the company on family hand through tough times in the 1970s and 1980s with the help of dedicated staff. Her son, cabinetmaker Jørgen Gerner Hansen, took over management of the company in 1988 and invested in new machines. In the early 1990 a renewed interest in Danish furniture emerged and a a Japanese subsidiary was established in 1991. With this, Carl Hansen & Søn relaunched several retired Wegner designs and in 2002 Carl Hansen & Søn purchased one of the rivaling furniture makers, Tranekær Furniture.
By 2002. Jørgen’s brother, Knud Erik Hansen assumed leadership, and have since built a new modern factory from where Carl Hansen & Søn still produce design furniture. Knud Erik Hansen internationalized the organization, leading to an export boom. In 2011 and 2012 Carl Hansen & Søn bought the renowned Rud. Rasmussen’s as well as P.J. Furniture, and could now incorporate designs by Mogens Koch, Kaare Klint and Ole Wanscher in the portfolio. Carl Hansen & Søn is today the largest manufacturer of furniture designed by Hans J. Wegner.