The Beekman Family Coach returns to the New-York Historical Society on July 2, 2021. Over the past year, this rare coach—one of only three horse-drawn vehicles used in 18th-century America to survive in original condition—was painstakingly restored to its 1790s appearance through a generous grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
New York merchant James Beekman purchased the coach in 1771 for £138. An expensive luxury that became the crown jewel in his fleet of carriages, the coach was repainted at least five times between 1771 and the 1790s.
Conservator Brian Howard and his team meticulously restored the coach, beginning with the removal of a thick layer of old varnish applied during the mid 20th century. Underneath lay five layers of historic paint, including a light celadon green color from the 1790s that is again visible today. Among other surprises, conservators discovered that the interior of the cab retained most of its original fixtures and materials—wood benches and storage lockers, wool wall coverings, carpeting, and coach lace, enameled Russian leather trim, and flax insulation.
Conservation and display of the Beekman Family Coach is being supported in part by a Federal Save America’s Treasures grant administered by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
Exhibitions at New-York Historical are made possible by Dr. Agnes Hsu-Tang and Oscar Tang, the Saunders Trust for American History, the Evelyn & Seymour Neuman Fund, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature. WNET is the media sponsor.