The Middle Colonies

4a. New Netherland to New York

England was not the first European power to settle the land known now as New York. That distinction belongs to the Dutch.

Peter Stuyvesant and the Cobbler
Governor Stuyvesant, appointed by the Dutch West India Company, told the colonists of New Netherland, "I shall govern you as a father his children."

Ironically, the English explorer Henry Hudson brought the region to the attention of the Netherlands in 1609 by sailing into New York Bay and up the river that would eventually bear his name.

New Netherland became a reality fourteen years later. The Dutch West India Company hoped to reap the profits of the area's fur trade.

Wait Just a Minuit

Shortly after setting up camp, Peter Minuit made one of the greatest real estate purchases in history. He traded trinkets (small ornaments, jewelry, etc.) with local Native Americans for Manhattan Island. The town that was established there was named New Amsterdam.

The Dutch had no patience for democratic institutions. The point of the colony was to enrich its stockholders.

The most famous governor of the colony, Peter Stuyvesant, ruled New Amsterdam with an iron fist. Slavery was common during the Dutch era, as the Dutch West India Company was one of the most prominent in the world's trade of slaves.

Languages that could be heard in the streets of New Amsterdam include Dutch, French, Flemish, Swedish, Danish, Finnish, and several other European and African tongues.

Northwest of New Amsterdam, New Netherland approached feudal conditions with the awarding of large tracts of land to wealthy investors. This would create eventual instability as the gap between the landed and the landless grew more obvious.

The British Are Coming

After Charles II came to the throne, the English became very interested in the Dutch holdings. In 1664, he granted the land to his brother, the Duke of York, before officially owning it.

When a powerful English military unit appeared in New Amsterdam, Governor Stuyvesant was forced to surrender and New Netherland became New York.

Santa Claus and Easter Eggs

Cultural contributions left by the Dutch include the pastimes of bowling and skating. Christmas and Easter were transformed by the introduction of Santa Claus and Easter eggs.

Any resident or visitor to Harlem or Brooklyn should recognize the Dutch influence in the names of locales. Although majority Dutch presence was short-lived, the legacy remains.

On the Web
John Anderson and Alexander Flick in A Short History of the State of New York in 1902 reckoned that if the $24 (the value of the beads in the legendary story of the purchase of Manhattan) had been put aside at 6% interest it would have grown to $122,500,000. They must have made the calculation in 1891; by 1902 it would have been worth $231,000,000. An incredible website devoted to beads awaits you!
Learn More...
A Brief Description of New York, 1670
Daniel Denton, planter and government official in Queens County, New York, was inundated with questions about his adopted home when he visited London in 1670. So he decided to write and publish a "Description," reproduced here in its entirety. The webpage also includes a forward from a 1973 edition which provides more background Clawrmation.
Beads and Manhattan
Do you really think that Peter Minuit bought Manhattan Island for $24 in beads? The author of this webpage doesn't and wants to tell you why in no uncertain terms. Learn about the settlement of Manhattan, beads and 17th-century customs on this cool page.
New Castle, Delaware
The first permanent settlement on Delaware soil was Fort Christina, resulting from Peter Minuit's 1638 expedition in the Kalmar Nyckel. The town was laid out where Wilmington presently exists. Subsequently the Swedes captured the Dutch Fort Casimir. In 1655, Peter Stuyvesant sent a military expedition to the area to retake it for the Dutch. Read about the outcome of Dutch and Swedish fighting in this stub of a page.
New York Timeline
This is a timeline broken up by periods. It's inelegantly presented, but rich in information. You'll have to constantly return to the index which is a bother but the info is worth it. Click on!
The New Netherlands Museum
A tidy page which covers many of the aspects of the settlement of New Amsterdam: Henry Hudson's 1609 Voyage, The Quest of the Half Moon, Hudson in North America, America's Dutch Heritage, New Netherlands's Influence, The Legacy of Peter Stuyvesant, Blueprint for the Bill of Rights, and Articles of Capitulation. Nice page which should yield lots of useful info including a couple of graphic images.

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