New Amsterdam

From Academic Kids

This article is about the settlement in present-day New York City. For alternate usages, see New Amsterdam (disambiguation)
Dutch Revival buildings from the early  on Pearl Street in lower  recall the Dutch origins of the city. The original 17th century architecture of New Amsterdam has completely vanished, leaving only archaeological remnants
Dutch Revival buildings from the early 20th century on Pearl Street in lower Manhattan recall the Dutch origins of the city. The original 17th century architecture of New Amsterdam has completely vanished, leaving only archaeological remnants

New Amsterdam (Dutch: Nieuw Amsterdam) was the name of the 17th century fortified settlement in the New Netherland colony that would eventually become New York City. Founded in 1625 by the Dutch West India Company, the city was located on the strategic, fortifiable southern tip of the island of Manhattan and intended to defend river access to the company's fur trade operations in the Hudson Valley. New Amsterdam developed into the largest Dutch colonial settlement in North America and remained a Dutch possession until 1664, when it fell to the English. The Dutch regained it briefly in 1673, renaming it "New Orange", then ceded it permanently to the English in 1674. The 1625 date of the foundation of the city is commemorated in the Official Seal of the City of New York (formerly, the year on the seal was 1664, the year of English incorporation).

See: Dutch colonization of the Americas, History of New York City



Early Settlement (1609-1625)

The first recorded exploration by the Dutch of area around what is now called New York Bay was in 1609 with the voyage of Henry Hudson, who was attempting to find the Northwest Passage. Instead, he brought back news about the possibility of exploitation of beaver pelts in the area, leading to interest by the Dutch in sending further missions to the area. At the time, beaver pelts were highly prized in Europe, because the fur could be "felted" to make waterproof hats. A by-product of the trade in beaver pelts was castoreum — the secretion of the animals' anal glands — which was used for its supposed medicinal properties. Several expeditions followed in the next few years, and in 1614 an expedition by Adriaen Block established the first year-round presence in the New Netherland colony.

In the first decade and a half of the colony, the island of Manhattan was used only sparingly by the Dutch. The colony was intended strictly as a profit-making enterprise, and not as a means to transplant Dutch culture. In this respect, the mouth of the Hudson River soon paled in comparison with the beaver-rich unexploited forests farther inland, where the company's traders could be in close contact with the Native American hunters who supplied them with pelts in exchange for cheap European-made trade goods for barter and wampum, which was soon being "minted" under Dutch auspices on Long Island.

Thus in 1624 when the first group of families arrived to operate the trading posts, they were mostly sent inland to the Hudson Valley. The early settlement on Manhattan was confined to several plantations, as well as for the cattle that were released on the island.

Fortification (1625)

In 1625, the ongoing threat of attack from other European colonial powers prompted the Directors of the Dutch West India Company to formulate a plan to protect the entrance to the Hudson River, and to gather the trading post operations into the vicinity of the new fort.

There is evidence that the Dutch West India Company was interested in building such a fort as early as 1620, based on a letter dated that year from the English architect Inigo Jones, who had probably been contacted by the company to design the fort. In the letter, Jones advises the company to avoid constructing a timber fort out of haste, but rather to build a moated fortification with stone and lime. Jones' accompanying drawing illustrates the traditional star-design that had become prevalent because of its ability to deflect cannon fire.

For the location of the masonry fort, company director Willem Verhulst and engineer Cryn Fredericks chose a site just above the southern tip of Manhattan. The new fortification was to be called Fort Amsterdam. By the end of the year, the site had been staked out directly south of Bowling Green on the site of the present U.S. Custom House; west of the fort's site, later landfill has now created Battery Park.


Verhulst was an unpopular director, however, mainly because of his mismanagement of the colony's finances and his peremptory treatment of the settlers, whom he viewed simply as company employees. In early 1626, Verhulst was replaced by Peter Minuit.

As part of the fort-building operation, Minuit began a policy of "purchasing" Manhattan from the local Lenape peoples for 60 guilders worth of trade goods. This was the foundation of the legend that Minuit had "purchased" Manhattan from the Native Americans for 24 dollars worth of trinkets. Most historians now agree that the Lenape had no concept of permanent ownership of land, since they moved encampments on a seasonal basis, and lived off whatever land they inhabited. At best, they probably believed they were granting hunting and fishing rights to the Dutch, who would eventually relinquish them when they desired to move on to other grounds.

While the fort was being constructed, the growing Mohawk-Mahican War in the Hudson Valley led the company to relocate the settlers from there to the vicinity of the new Fort Amsterdam. The urgency of the need for the fortification, as well as the fact that the colony as a whole was not making money, led a scaling back of the original plans. Instead of the original masonry fort, a simple blockhouse was constructed surrounded by a palisade of wood and sod. See also Wall Street.

A sawmill was built on what is now Governors Island. The new settlement had a population of approximately 270 people, including infants. A watercolor discovered in the map collection of the Austrian National Library, Vienna, in 1992 (see link below) provides a unique view of mid-17th century Nieuw Amsterdam as it appeared from Governor's Island.

New Amsterdam was incorporated on February 2, 1653. On April 20, 1657, New Amsterdam granted freedom of religion to Jews; many Sephardic Jews arrived there fleeing from Portuguese reconquest of the Dutch possessions in Brazil. Nieuw Haarlem was formally recognized in 1658.

In the Second Anglo-Dutch War, between England and the United Netherlands, the New Netherlands were seized by the English, with director general Peter Stuyvesant surrendering New Amsterdam on September 24, 1664. Part of the settlement included an exhange with the tiny island of Run in North Maluku, rich in nutmegs. The colony was subsequently renamed New York, after the Duke of York—brother of the English King Charles II—who had been granted the lands.

In 1667, the Dutch withdrew their claims on the colony in the Treaty of Breda, and were granted the rights to Suriname in return. However, in a subsequent war between the English and the Dutch, the Dutch recaptured the colony briefly in 1673 before handing it over for good after the signing of the Treaty of Westminster on February 19, 1674.

See also

External links


  • Hugh Morrison, Early American Architecture ISBN 0-486-25492-5 (Oxford University Press, 1952) [Dover Ed. 1987]
  • Russel Shorto, The island at the center of the world : the epic story of Dutch Manhattan, the forgotten colony that shaped America ISBN 0-385-50349-0 (New York : Doubleday, 2004.)

Template:Former Dutch colonies

da:New Amsterdam es:Nueva Amsterdam fr:Nouvelle Amsterdam ja:ニューアムステルダム nl:Nieuw-Amsterdam (New York) he:ניו אמסטרדם pt:Nova Amsterdo


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