Intern James Jenkins is currently researching paintings in our collection for a new “mini” exhibit on architectural paintings of Schenectady County. To see the exhibit and learn more about these beautiful but also informative paintings, visit the Schenectady County Historical Society Monday – Friday 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. or Saturday 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Watch out for more artifact based blogs in the future!
Recently I was asked to do research on The Veeder Homestead painting that is now hanging on the wall of the second floor hallway. It was donated to the Schenectady County Historical Society by Mrs. Adelaide Vrooman Veeder on December 1, 1962. I was to check the information from previous research and fill in any blanks, so that the Historical Society could present a more detailed picture about the life and times of the painter and painting.
The acquisition information stated that the artist provided the following information on the back of the piece: Veeder Homestead, F.G.Veeder, age 15 years. The donor provided us with the year 1840 as the date that she suspected the painting was completed. Other than that little was known.
The person who accepted the piece provided the following comments on the style and time period of the painting. “It is interesting on the basis of style because of the freshness of technique, the use of color, and the exact concern with detail” Most of this was easily recognizable to my untrained eye. The colors are bright and clear, and the painting has painstaking details of a white fence, a train passing in the background, along with curtains in the windows of the house.
The first research question I had was, who was F.G. Veeder and in what year would he or she been 15 years old. I asked our librarian, Katherine Chansky, what would be a good place to start looking. She guided me to the Veeder family genealogical record in the library of the Historical Society. From this record I was able to identify that the artist was Ferguson G. Veeder. He was born about 1852 to Abraham and Elizabeth Veeder. That meant that the painting was completed around 1866. After this I used the U.S. census records to find that in 1870 Ferguson was listed as a farm worker on the family farm. The 1910 census records Ferguson as a divorced painter. Ferguson was also listed in the 1920 and 1930 census records. Then a newspaper obituary pinpointed his death on January 9, 1941. This information added with the early painting seemed to show that Ferguson wanted to paint at a young age and later followed in his dreams.
I then became interested in were the Veeder Homestead would have been located. Kathrine aided me again on my search. She found a book of old historical buildings in Schenectady County. The book contained a building that had once belonged to the Veeders that was along the old Erie Canal. It looked similar to the painting so I decided to try and locate it on a map. I used an 1866 map of Rotterdam to see if there were any railroad lines in the general area and found that the New York Central Rail Road had run along the Mohawk River. The map also showed that there were several homes owned by the Veeder’s in the general area. With this information I was able to tell that Ferguson had faced North or North by Northwest when he had painted the house. These details were accurate to the information to the old Veeder house provided in the listing of historic buildings. So I believe that the house still stands at 1502 Main Street Rotterdam, New York.