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A shisham wood (Dalbergia sissoo) and American walnut (Juglans nigra) coffer with iron and brass mounts, previously owned by settler Anneken Jans Bogardius (1604/1605-1663)


North America, New Amsterdam (New York), circa 1633, the lock inscribed ANNEKEN JANS B A1633

The slightly trapezoid-shaped sisham wood coffer with American walnut carved escutcheon, iron hinges and handles, a Dutch mechanism lock, in which 17th-century Swedish copper was used.
Inside, at the top left side of the interior, the typical small-lidded compartment, found in practically all VOC chests. The present compartment, a late 19th/early 20th-century replacement of the original one, is made of American oak (Quercus alba) with northern pitch pine (Tsuga canadensis) lid.

H. 49.2 x W. 112 x D. 46.8 cm

The chest, because of its style and the wood used, probably is from the Indian Malabar Coast or Persia/Shiraz, before 1633.
It has a wooden lock surround carved in American walnut in the New Netherlands in the auricular or ‘kwab’ style, so very popular at the time. Originally the chest probably had an additional central hinge (traces to be found inside the lid) ending in a hasp hanging over a metal backplate with a protruding ring (traces of which can be seen inside the chest), secured by a padlock. This was the usual way chests from the Malabar Coast were locked. The Dutch always replaced the padlock by an internal Dutch mechanism chest lock.

All parts of the brass lock, analysed by the Conservation Laboratories of the Rijksmuseum with stereomicroscope and XRF-analysis, proved to have originated from the Falun mine
in Sweden, which dominated the European copper market during the mid-17th century. Brass based on Swedish copper also made its way to the New World and was found among the scrap discovered during an excavation of an early 17th-century site in Jamestown (Carter C. Hudgins, Articles of Exchange or Ingredients of New World Metallurgy? Early American Studies 3, no. 1 (2005): 32-64). The engraving of the text first set up with a scriber, clearly shows signs of wear predating some repairs to the lock, and according to researchers Ellen van Bork, Tamar Davidowitz and Arie Pappot of the Conservation Laboratorium of the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam seem to be old and authentic.

The lock bears the inscription ‘Anneken Jans. B A1633.’ B probably stands for Beverwijck (present-day Albany), where Anneken Jans lived A(nno) 1633.

THE ANNEKEN JANS CHEST:
The Tangible Cradle of the United States

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Anneken Jans, also known as Anneken Jans-Bogardus, was born 1604/1605
in Norway, Fleckerøy, Vest Agder, daughter of Jan (Roelofsz. ?) and Trijn Jonas, who later was to become the first midwife for the WIC, the Dutch West India Company, in New Amsterdam. At a young age Anneken and her family moved to Amsterdam. Anneken married Roeloff Jansz (1601/1602-1637) on April 18th, 1623, a Norwegian seaman. The couple certainly were not afraid to take risks. As one of the very first Dutch settlers Anneken and Roeloff in 1630 sailed to Nieuw Amsterdam with a contract to work for three years for the wealthy Amsterdam jewellery merchant Kiliaen Rensselaer, a governor of the West India Company in Amsterdam, who was granted by the WIC, as a patroonship, vast lands encompassing all of present-day Albany, Rensselaer counties, and part of Columbia and Greene counties. On May 24th, 1630, Anneken, Roeloff, their three daughters, together with Anneken’s mother and sister, arrived at Fort Orange and settled in the small village of Beverwijck. Roeloff was paid 72 guilders a year as a farmer of the Laets Burg Farm along the Hudson River near Normanskill Creek, and was appointed schepen, alderman, of Beverwijck. In the meantime, Anneken, together with her sister and mother, set up a (illegal) retail business.

The couple had two more daughters and a son, and the family interacted daily with local Native Americans. Incidentally, their first daughter, Sara, later became a translator for the New Netherlands director-general, Peter Stuyvesant, in negotiations with the local tribes. However, the farm wasn’t very successful and in 1634 the family moved to Manhattan and worked in the Dutch West Indian Company’s Bouwerie, or farm, in the section of Manhattan
now known as ‘The Bowery.’ In 1637 the industrious Roeloff was given a grant for a 62-acre farm of his own near the site where later the World Trade Center would be standing. Here he built a small house on the farm for his mother-in-law, the colony’s midwife. That same year Roeloff suddenly died. Together Anneken and Roeloff had five daughters and one son, all baptized Lutheran. Anneken, now with six children, no money and apparently in debt to Rensselaer, was acquitted her debts by Rensselaer, and continued to work her own farm. A year later, 1638, Anneken married reverend Everhardus Bogardus (ca. 1607-1647), the second ‘dominee’ to be sent by the West India Company to the New Netherlands. Bogardus was a well-read Dutch Re-formed clergyman, with whom Anneke had another four sons (one of their grandsons, Everardus Bogardus (1675-ca. 1725), was to become a famous Dutch New York silversmith). The couple lived on Anneken’s 62-acre farm which came to be known as ‘Dominee’s Bouwerie’. Reverend Bogardus was orthodox, considering himself the guardian of the public morals, even though he himself had quite an alcohol problem. He had frequent quarrels with the New Netherlands magistrates often denouncing them from the pulpit. They didn’t like that, and Bogardus was charged with drunkenness, meddling with other men’s affairs, and using bad language. In September 1647, leaving behind his wife Anneken and his four sons, Bogardus sailed on the ‘Princes’ for Amsterdam to defend himself from the charges brought against him. He drowned when the ‘Princes’ was wrecked on September 29, 1647, off the coast of Wales. Anneken, widowed for the second time at the age of 42, had nine children to support and still was cash-poor but land-rich, having three farms; in Beverwijck (Albany), Manhattan and an 82-acre farm on Long Island, called ‘Dominee’s Hoek’, she inherited from her husband dominee Bogardus. She sold the Long Island farm and moved back to Beverwijck (Albany), where she had a house built on land adjacent to the property owned by her son from her first marriage. As her children married and moved out, she gave each of them a bed and a cow as a wedding present.

In 1659 the widow Anneken Bogardus had to appear in court because she had shown her ankles in public! She was saved by a friend who declared that, when Anneken had to walk through the mud, she had lifted her skirts only to keep them clean. Fortunately, she was acquitted.

Anneken died in 1663 after living another sixteen years in Beverwijck. Her will stipulated that the estate be divided equally among her seven surviving children. The children sold her Albany house to Dirk Wessels ten Broeck for the substantial sum of 1.000 guilders.

After Colonel Richard Nicolls had taken possession of New Amsterdam in 1664 for the Brits, all property-holders were required to obtain new titles for their lands. Anneken’s heirs secured a new patent for the farm of 62 acres on Manhattan from Governor Nicolls on March 27, 1667. On March 1671, the farm was sold to Governor Lovelace for a ‘valuable consideration’. All of Anneken’s heirs signed the deed of transfer, except the widow and child
of Cornelius Bogardus, one of Anneken’s sons who had died in 1666. That omission was to cause a lot of subsequent legal problems. In 1674 the Duke of York (the later King James I) confiscated ‘Dominee’s Bowery’ and it was turned over to the British crown. In 1705 Queen Anne granted the farm to the Trinity Church. Descendants of Cornelius Bogardus (whose wife and son had not signed the deed) later claimed parts of the Trinity Church’s farm, because their ancestors hadn’t agreed to the sale. This resulted in the most famous and protracted lawsuit over Manhattan landownership that dragged on well into the 20th century. In the end all ended in the Church’s favour.

The Albany Institute of History and Art possesses another chest, brought to New Amsterdam in 1633 by dominee Bogardus as it was impossible to travel without a chest in those days.

West Indian Company vessels arriving in New Amsterdam were laden with goods from Holland, such as building materials (bricks and tiles), and all kinds of household goods such as furniture, textiles from East India, carpets from Turkey, oriental ceramics, Dutch Delftware, silver, tin, and copper objects. Possibly the present coffer arrived with a Dutch ship in 1633 and was bought then by Anneken Jans, amongst other goods for her private retail business. She had her name inscribed on the lock, presumably because she intended to keep the chest to store her own belongings.

Anneken Jans-Bogardus now is famous as the almost mythical ancestress of the Dutch community in the United States. Six of her children had numerous offspring, forming a ‘Nederlandse’, anti-British, anti-royalist, Dutch Reformed community. Anneken became the object of an unbridled creation of legends, making her even a daughter of William of Orange, the Vader des Vaderlands, and leader of the Dutch in their revolt against Spain. These legends still form a strong bond for the multitude of descendants of Anneken Jans. Bogardus in the United States.

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