Faces of Schenectady: The Mabee Connection

By Ona Curran

 Curator Kathryn Weller and Guest Curator Ona Curran are planning an exhibit on early 18th century portraiture from Schenectady County.  Scheduled to open  May 10, 2010 the exhibit will showcase portraits of the Veeders, Glens, Sanders, Becks, Truax, Swarths, Van Slyck, Ten Eyck and the Society’s portraits of  Helena Van Eps and the Van der Volgens. Illustrated is the portrait of Anna Mol Fairly Beck a niece of Jan Pieterse Mabee the progenitor of the Mabee name in Schenectady and the first Mabee to own the historic Mabee house given to the Society by the late George Franchere, a descendant. Groundbreaking ceremonies were recently held for an Education Center on the site. The portrait of Anna Mol beck is the only known Mabee portrait from this early period of Schenectady history.

Van Cortlandt Manor with Anna Beck portrait

Owned and operated by Historic Hudson Valley, Van Cortlandt Manor presents the life of a Post-American Revolutionary War family. Visitors can see how the house may have been furnished during the early Federal period and learn about the excitment and difficulties of living in a new nation. View of the parlor. The two portraits (1724-1725) are of Caleb and Anna Beck, relatives of the Van Cortlandt family, attributed to artist Nehemiah Partridge. This view also provides a glimpse of the outstanding collection of Chinese export porcelain in the house.

 came to Schenectady in 1703 following her marriage to Caleb Beck. She was the daughter of Engeltie Mabee and Jan Jansen Mol and granddaughter of Pieter Casparzen Mabee and Aechtje Jans.

The exhibit will celebrate the Society’s recent acquisition of the Van der Volgen collection which includes an important portrait of Laurens Claus Van der Volgen  who was taken prisoner by the Indians during the 1690 massacre, returned to Schenectady ten years later and became interpreter for the New York Province. The portrait is attributed to Nehemiah Partridge and was painted about 1720. It is a major addition to the society’s collection.

Portraits of early 18th century residents are in major museum collections throughout the East. The various museums have been invited to participate. The Society is anxious to learn of other portraits of this period which may be in family collections and is interested in hearing from you. Contact Kate Weller Curator or Ona Curran guest curator of the exhibit.


  1. Sean Peterson said

    As a direct descendant of Caleb and Anna Beck, I look forward to seeing these portraits that I did not know existed.

    • Oh, please visit! The portraits are beautiful but we also have Anna Beck’s Day Book which were her accounts with many of Schenectady’s early residents. As part of the exhibit, we also have a full color catalogue available for sale which includes both portraits and images of the Day Book.

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