This tankard is one of the rare surviving works of silversmith Koenraet Ten Eyck who lived and worked in Albany from 1678 to 1753. Along with his sons Jacob and Barent, he established a silversmithing shop that spanned most of the eighteenth century, and which supplied the merchants and landed classes in Albany with hollowware and Indian trade silver.
There are only sixteen other known objects by Koenraet Ten Eyck; this previously unrecorded tankard is the seventeenth. Two other tankards by him survive, both very similar to the present tankard. The first was made for Evert Wendell, an Albany lawyer and merchant, and his wife Engeltie Lansing, circa 1710, and is published in Norman S. Rice, Albany Silver, 1964, fig. 9, p. 19. It has a French coin in the cover dated 1690-1693, applied lion and putto on the handle, cut-card and meander wire around the base. The second tankard was made for Johannes Henricus Lidius, a prominent and colorful Albany fur trader and his French-Indian wife, Genevieve Masse. Slightly smaller than the Witbeck and Wendell tankards, it lacks a coin in the cover, but has all of the other decorative elements. Both tankards are currently in private collections.
The present tankard was made for Abraham and (H)Anna Witbeck of Rensselaerwyck. Abraham Witbeck (1703-1765) was the third generation of Witbecks who owned land in Rensselaerwyck Manor, the vast land tract surrounding Albany. He also owned a house in the 3rd ward of the city of Albany, and was listed as a freeholder of the city in the tax assessment of 1742. In 1748 he inherited all the houses, lands, buildings and slaves of his father in Rensselaerwyck by the will of his brother.
The tankard was most likely made to commemorate the marriage of Abraham Witbeck to (H)Anna Van Deusen in 1728. Anna was the daughter of Harpert Jacobse Van Deusen (d. 1742), a substantial merchant of Albany who also owned property in the 3rd ward of the city. Abraham and Anna had ten children, six of whom lived to adulthood.
The present tankard is recorded in Abraham's will, dated October 22, 1765, when he left to his first-born son Harpert "myn Sulver kan" as the first of his bequests. The rest of his land and money he divided between his children. No other item of personal property is specifically mentioned in his will, a fact which emphasizes the ceremonial, in addition to material, importance of this silver tankard to a family of Albany landowners.
(We are grateful to Stefan Bielinski of the Colonial Albany Project, New York State Museum for his assistance with this research)