Cornelia van Varick (1692-1733)
Cornelia van Varick was a Dutch girl who lived in Flatbush, Brooklyn, around 1700. A great deal is known about her household and family because when her widowed mother died, executors compiled an estate inventory that still survives.
This inventory lists every item in the family’s home and in the store that Cornelia’s mother, Margrieta, operated from a room in the house. (Families can explore the inventory at the History Detectives pavilion.) The inventory provides an unusual window into the life of a wealthy family in Dutch New-York. In the Van Varicks’ time, New-York was a surprisingly worldly place, connected by trade to far-off corners of the globe. A large interactive map allows children to follow the trade routes that connected Margrieta’s Brooklyn store to London, Amsterdam, the West Indies, Africa, and Asia.
Cornelia comes to life in a recorded story interactive and children practice their cross stitch at this interactive pavilion.
Sampler, ca. 1791
Linen and silk
The New-York Historical Society, Purchased from Elie Nadelman, 1937.344
Cornelia van Varick was the youngest of four children. When she was born, her big sister, Johanna, was 10. Her brother Marinus was six. And Rudolphus, named for his father and closest in age to Cornelia, was two. Their father Rudolphus van Varick came from Holland to become the minister at the Dutch Reformed Church on the corner of Flatbush and Church Avenues. He and his family lived next door in the parsonage, the house provided for them by the church. Their mother, Margrieta, operated her shop from a room in the parsonage. It was filled with beautiful fabrics from Asia—Chinese silk, Indian cotton—as well as buttons and ribbons and thread, and lacquered boxes from Japan, and spices from Indonesia.
Their mother may have sometimes asked them to sweep the floor, or spoon out cinnamon or cloves for customers, or neaten the shelves— there were over 2,000 items in this shop!
Cornelia van Varick went to a school run by the Dutch Reformed Church. She may have studied with an expert seamstress who taught her to sew and practice needlework by making samplers that her family would hang proudly on the wall.
The above sampler by Sara Rees was once displayed in Elie Nadelman’s Museum of Folk Arts, located in the Riverdale section of the Bronx. The New-York Historical Society purchased Nadelman's entire collection in 1937.
Visit the Cornelia van Varick pavilion in the DiMenna Children’s History Museum to see the trade map for Margrieta’s goods or play a game about daily life for Dutch children.