According to Jenna Peterson, assistant curator at the Schenectady County Historical Society, clothes can tell you a lot about a person.
This Saturday at the Mabee Farm in Rotterdam Junction, the society will unveil its latest exhibit, showcasing a collection of shoes from three different centuries as well as two very special dresses.
An opening reception for “The Story of Shoes: Walking, Working and Dancing Through the Ages” will be held today at the Orville and Marian Mabee Gallery in the Franchere Center. The exhibit will remain on display through the month of May.
“Each of the [interpretive] panels will have a story from the perspective of either the shoes or the person who owned the shoes,” said Peterson. “There are some stories however, that have fallen through the cracks, so we do have shoes, such as pair of children’s shoes for example, that we know nothing about.”
One set of shoes that Peterson does know quite a bit about is the pair that belonged to Deborah Glen. The daughter of Jacob Glen and the great-granddaughter of the original settler in Scotia, Alexander Lindsay Glen, Deborah was born in 1721 and married Albany’s John Sanders in 1739. Her home, built in 1710, is now the Glen Sanders Mansion, a banquet and restaurant facility on the northern bank of the Mohawk River.
‘The Story of Shoes: Walking, Working and Dancing Through the Ages’
WHERE: Franchere Center, Mabee Farm, 1080 Main St., Rotterdam Junction
WHEN: Opening reception 3 to 5 p.m. today
HOW MUCH: $5 for nonmembers, free for members
MORE INFO: 887-5073, www.schenectadyhistory.net
“When she married John Sanders, the two of them were kind of the jumping off point for the Glen Sanders dynasty as we know it today,” said Peterson, who included Deborah Glen’s dress in the exhibit along with a print of the 1739 portrait of her now at Colonial Williamsburg. “They were very prominent people, and the real close detail in her shoes and her dress are an indication of the wealth of the family. The stitching on the shoes is very similar to the dress, so I assume she had a cobbler and a tailor or dressmaker make each item for her.”
Along with lending evidence to her wealth, Glen’s shoes and dress tell us something else about the woman.
“She was very petite to say the least,” said Peterson. “The dress and the shoes are beautiful, and they are in remarkable condition considering they are 250 years old. But they also tell us that Deborah Glen was an itty-bitty, tiny woman.”
The other dress and shoes pairing in the exhibit belonged to Helen Livingston Mynderse McClellan and dates back to 1904, while also on display will be the shoes and lab coat of General Electric engineer Gerald Iler from the 1950s.
Other items include three sets of wooden clogs from the Colonial time period and the shoes of a World War II fighter pilot complete with his full military outfit.
Contest on tap
“We’re also going to have an oral history station and invite people to tell us stories about their own shoes,” said Peterson, “and we’re going to have a contest in which the person wearing the most interesting shoes to our reception will receive a prize.”
Reach Gazette reporter Bill Buell at 395-3190 or firstname.lastname@example.org.