History of New York City

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Bird's eye panoramic view print of Manhattan in 1873. The Brooklyn Bridge was under construction from 1870 until 1883.

Written documentation of the history of New York City began with the first European visit to the area by Giovanni da Verrazzano, in command of the French ship La Dauphine, when he visited the region in 1524. It is believed he sailed into Upper New York Bay, where he encountered native Lenape, returned through The Narrows, where he anchored the night of April 17, and then left to continue his voyage. He named the area of present-day New York City Nouvelle-Angoulême (New Angoulême) in honor of Francis I, King of France and Count of Angoulême.[1]

European settlement began on September 3, 1609, when the Englishman Henry Hudson, in the employ of the Dutch East India Company, sailed the Half Moon through The Narrows into Upper New York Bay. Like Christopher Columbus, Hudson was looking for a westerly passage to Asia. He never found one, but he did take note of the abundant beaver population. Beaver pelts were in fashion in Europe, fueling a lucrative business. Hudson's report on the regional beaver population served as the impetus for the founding of Dutch trading colonies in the New World, among them New Amsterdam, which would become New York City. The beaver's importance in New York City's history is reflected by its use on the city's official seal.

The Dutch West Indies Company transported African slaves to the post as trading laborers. By the late 17th century, 40% of the settlers were African slaves. They helped build the fort and stockade, and some gained freedom under the Dutch. After the English took over the colony and city they called New York in 1664, they continued to import slaves from Africa and the Caribbean. In 1703, 42% of the New York households had slaves; they served as domestic servants and laborers but also became involved in skilled trades, shipping and other fields. By the 1770s slaves made up less than 25% of the city's population. A center of revolutionary activity, the Sons of Liberty harassed British authority in the city, and the Stamp Act Congress of representatives from throughout the Thirteen Colonies met in the city in 1765 to organize resistance to British policies. The city's strategic location and status as a major seaport made it the prime target for British seizure in 1776. General George Washington lost a series of battles from which he narrowly escaped (with the notable exception of the Battle of Harlem Heights, his first victory of the war), and the British Army controlled New York City and made it their base on the continent until late 1783, attracting Loyalist refugees. The city served as the national capital under the Articles of Confederation from 1785-1789, and briefly served as the new nation's capital in 1789–90 under the United States Constitution that replaced it. Under the new government the city hosted the inauguration of George Washington as the first President of the United States, the drafting of the United States Bill of Rights, and the first Supreme Court of the United States. The opening of the Erie Canal gave excellent steamboat connections with upstate New York and the Great Lakes, along with coastal traffic to lower New England, making the city the preeminent port on the Atlantic Ocean. The arrival of rail connections to the north and west in the 1840s and 1850s strengthened its central role.

Beginning in the mid-19th century, waves of new immigrants arrived from Europe, dramatically changing the composition of the city and serving as workers in the expanding industries. Modern New York City traces its development to the consolidation of the five boroughs in 1898 and an economic and building boom following the Great Depression and World War II. Throughout its history, New York City has served as a main port of entry for many immigrants, and its cultural and economic influence has made it one of the most important urban areas in the United States and the world.

Early history[edit]

Lenape and New Netherland: prehistory–1664[edit]

Peter Stuyvesant

The area that would eventually encompass modern day New York City was inhabited by the Lenape people. These groups of culturally and linguistically identical Native Americans traditionally spoke an Algonquian language now referred to as Unami. Early European settlers would refer to bands of Lenape by the Unami place name for where they lived, such as: "Raritan" in what is now called Staten Island and New Jersey, "Canarsee" in what is now known as Brooklyn, and "Hackensack" in modern New Jersey across the Hudson River from current-day Lower Manhattan. Eastern Long Island neighbors were culturally and linguistically more closely related to the Mohegan-Pequot peoples of what is now known as New England who spoke the Mohegan-Montauk-Narragansett language.

These peoples all made use of the abundant waterways in the New York City region for fishing, hunting trips, trade, and occasionally war. Place names such as Raritan Bay and Canarsie, are derived from Lenape names. Many former paths created by the indigenous peoples are today main thoroughfares, such as Broadway in Manhattan.[5] The Lenape developed sophisticated techniques of hunting and managing their resources. By the time of the arrival of Europeans, they were cultivating fields of vegetation through the slash and burn technique, which extended the productive life of planted fields. They also harvested vast quantities of fish and shellfish from the bay.[6] Historians estimate that at the time of European settlement, approximately 5,000 Lenape lived in 80 settlements around the region.[7] [8] European settlement began with the founding of a Dutch fur trading post in Lower Manhattan, later called New Amsterdam (Nieuw Amsterdam) in the southern tip of Manhattan in 1624-1625.[9]

Soon thereafter, most likely in 1626, construction of Fort Amsterdam began.[9] Later, the Dutch West Indies Company imported African slaves to serve as laborers; they helped to build the wall that defended the town against English and Indian attacks. Early directors included Willem Verhulst and Peter Minuit. Willem Kieft became director in 1638 but five years later was embroiled in Kieft's War against the Native Americans. The Pavonia Massacre, across the Hudson River in present day Jersey City resulted in the death of 80 natives in February 1643. Following the massacre, Algonquian tribes joined forces and nearly defeated the Dutch. Holland sent additional forces to the aid of Kieft, leading to the overwhelming defeat of the Native Americans and a peace treaty on August 29, 1645.[10]

On May 27, 1647, Peter Stuyvesant was inaugurated as director general upon his arrival and ruled as a member of the Dutch Reformed Church. The colony was granted self-government in 1652, and New Amsterdam was formally incorporated as a city on February 2, 1653.[11] The first mayors (burgemeesters) of New Amsterdam, Arent van Hattem and Martin Cregier, were appointed in that year.[12]

British and revolution: 1664–1783[edit]

In 1664, the English conquered the area and renamed it "New York" after the Duke of York.[13] At that time, African slaves comprised 40% of the small population of the city. Some had achieved freedom under the Dutch and owned 130 acres of farms in the area of present-day Washington Square.[14] The Dutch briefly regained the city in 1673, renaming the city "New Orange", before permanently ceding the colony of New Netherland to the English for what is now Suriname in November 1674. Some place names originated in the Dutch period, most notably Flushing (Dutch town of Vlissingen), Harlem (Dutch town of Haarlem) and Brooklyn (Dutch town of Breukelen). Few buildings, however, remain from the 17th century. The oldest recorded house still in existence in New York City, the Pieter Claesen Wyckoff House in Brooklyn, dates from 1652.

The new English rulers of the formerly Dutch New Amsterdam and New Netherland renamed the settlement New York. As the colony grew and prospered, sentiment also grew for greater autonomy. In the context of the Glorious Revolution in England, Jacob Leisler led Leisler's Rebellion and effectively controlled the city and surrounding areas from 1689–1691, before being arrested and executed.

By 1700, the Lenape population of New York had diminished to 200.[7] By 1703, 42% of households in New York had slaves, a higher percentage than in Philadelphia or Boston.[15]

The 1735 libel trial of John Peter Zenger in the city was a seminal influence on freedom of the press in North America. It would be a standard for the basic articles of freedom in the United States Declaration of Independence.

New Amsterdam in 1664
View of New York harbor, ca. 1770

By the 1740s, with expansion of settlers, 20% of the population of New York was slaves,[16] totaling about 2,500 people.[17] After a series of fires in 1741, the city became panicked that blacks planned to burn the city in a conspiracy with some poor whites. Historians believe their alarm was mostly fabrication and fear, but officials rounded up 31 blacks and 4 whites, who over a period of months were convicted of arson. Of these, the city executed 13 blacks by burning them alive and hanged 4 whites and 18 blacks.[18]

Further information: New York Conspiracy of 1741

In 1754, Columbia University was founded under charter by George II of Great Britain as King's College in Lower Manhattan.[19]

The Stamp Act and other British measures fomented dissent, particularly among Sons of Liberty who maintained a long-running skirmish with locally stationed British troops over Liberty Poles from 1766 to 1776. The Stamp Act Congress met in New York City in 1765 in the first organized resistance to British authority across the colonies. After the major defeat of the Continental Army in the Battle of Long Island, General George Washington withdrew to Manhattan Island, but with the subsequent defeat at the Battle of Fort Washington the island was effectively left to the British. The city became a haven for loyalist refugees, becoming a British stronghold for the entire war. Consequently, the area also became the focal point for Washington's espionage and intelligence-gathering throughout the war.

New York City was greatly damaged twice by fires of suspicious origin during British military rule. The city became the political and military center of operations for the British in North America for the remainder of the war and a haven for Loyalist refugees. Continental Army officer Nathan Hale was hanged in Manhattan for espionage. In addition, the British began to hold the majority of captured American prisoners of war aboard prison ships in Wallabout Bay, across the East River in Brooklyn. More Americans lost their lives from neglect aboard these ships than died in all the battles of the war. British occupation lasted until November 25, 1783. George Washington triumphantly returned to the city that day, as the last British forces left the city.

Federal and early America: 1784–1854[edit]

Norman Friend. Sidney's Map Twelve Miles Around New York, 1849. Chromo lithograph, Brooklyn Museum

Starting in 1785 the Congress met in New York City under the Articles of Confederation. In 1789, New York City became the first national capital of the United States under the new United States Constitution. The Constitution also created the current Congress of the United States, and its first sitting was at Federal Hall on Wall Street. The first United States Supreme Court sat there. The United States Bill of Rights was drafted and ratified there. George Washington was inaugurated at Federal Hall.[20] New York City remained the capital of the U.S. until 1790, when the role was transferred to Philadelphia.

New York grew as an economic center, first as a result of Alexander Hamilton's policies and practices as the first Secretary of the Treasury and, later, with the opening of the Erie Canal in 1825, which connected the Atlantic port to the vast agricultural markets of the North American interior.[21][22] Immigration resumed after being slowed by wars in Europe, and a new street grid system expanded to encompass all of Manhattan.

The Great Irish Famine (1845-1850) brought a large influx of Irish immigrants, and by 1850 the Irish comprised one quarter of the city's population.[23] Government institutions, including the New York City Police Department and the public schools, were established in the 1840s and 1850s to respond to growing demands of residents.[24]

Modern history[edit]

Tammany and consolidation: 1855–1897[edit]

Broadway at 42nd St. in 1898.

This period started with the 1855 inauguration of Fernando Wood as the first mayor from Tammany Hall, an Irish immigrant-supported Democratic Party political machine that would dominate local politics throughout this period.[25] During the 19th century, the city was transformed by immigration, a visionary development proposal called the Commissioners' Plan of 1811, which expanded the city street grid to encompass all of Manhattan, and the opening of the Erie Canal, which connected the Atlantic port to the vast agricultural markets of the Midwestern United States and Canada in 1825. By 1835, New York City had surpassed Philadelphia as the largest city in the United States. Public-minded members of the old merchant aristocracy pressed for a Central Park, which was opened to a design competition in 1857; it would become the first landscape park in an American city.

During the American Civil War (1861–1865), the city's strong commercial ties to the South, its growing immigrant population, and anger about conscription led to divided sympathy for both the Union and Confederacy, culminating in the Draft Riots of 1863.[26] After the Civil War, the rate of immigration from Europe grew steeply, and New York became the first stop for millions seeking a new and better life in the United States, a role acknowledged by the dedication of the Statue of Liberty in 1886.

Early 20th century: 1898–1945[edit]

Mulberry Street, on the Lower East Side, circa 1900.

In 1898, the modern City of New York was formed with the consolidation of Brooklyn (until then an independent city), Manhattan and outlying areas.[27] Manhattan and the Bronx were established as two separate boroughs and joined together with three other boroughs created from parts of adjacent counties to form the new municipal government originally called "Greater New York". The Borough of Brooklyn incorporated the independent City of Brooklyn, recently joined to Manhattan by the Brooklyn Bridge; the Borough of Queens was created from western Queens County (with the remnant established as Nassau County in 1899); and The Borough of Richmond contained all of Richmond County. Municipal governments contained within the boroughs were abolished, and the county governmental functions were absorbed by the City or each borough.[28] In 1914, the New York State Legislature created Bronx County, making five counties coterminous with the five boroughs.

On June 15, 1904 over 1,000 people, mostly German Immigrants, were killed when the steamship General Slocum caught fire and burned on North Brother Island, in the East River; and on March 25, 1911 the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in Greenwich Village took the lives of 146 garment workers, which would eventually lead to great advancements in the city's fire department, building codes, and workplace regulations.

Throughout the first half of the 20th century, the city became a world center for industry, commerce, and communication. Interborough Rapid Transit (the first New York City Subway company) began operating in 1904, and the railroads operating out of Grand Central Terminal and Pennsylvania Station thrived. New York City's ever accelerating changes and rising crime and poverty rates ended when World War I disrupted trade routes, the Immigration Restriction Acts limited additional immigration after the war, and the Great Depression ended the need for new labor. The combination ended the rule of the Gilded Age barons. As the city's demographics stabilized, labor unionization brought new protections and affluence to the working class, the city's government and infrastructure underwent a dramatic overhaul under Fiorello La Guardia, and his controversial parks commissioner, Robert Moses, ended the blight of many tenement areas, expanded new parks, remade streets, and restricted and reorganized zoning controls.

The skyscraper epitomized New York's success of the early 20th century; it was home to the tallest building between 1908 and 1974.[29]

Through 1940, New York City was a major destination for African Americans during the Great Migration from the American South. The Harlem Renaissance flourished during the 1920s and the era of Prohibition, coincident with a larger economic boom that saw the skyline develop with the construction of competing skyscrapers. For a while, New York City became the most populous city in the world, starting in 1925 and overtaking London, which had reigned for a century.[30] During the difficult years of the Great Depression, the reformer Fiorello La Guardia was elected as mayor and Tammany Hall fell after eighty years of political dominance.[31]

Despite the effects of the Great Depression, the 1930s saw the building of some of the world's tallest skyscrapers, including numerous Art-Deco masterpieces that are still part of the city's skyline today. Both before and especially after World War II, vast areas of the city were also reshaped by the construction of bridges, parks and parkways coordinated by Moses, the greatest proponent of automobile-centered modernist urbanism in America.

Post–World War II: 1946–1977[edit]

RMS Queen Mary arriving in New York Harbor with thousands of U.S. troops.

Returning World War II veterans and immigrants from Europe created a postwar economic boom and led to the development of huge housing tracts in eastern Queens. The city was extensively photographed during the post–war years by photographer Todd Webb using a heavy camera and tripod.[32]

New York emerged from the war as the leading city of the world, with Wall Street leading America's ascendancy and, in 1951, the United Nations relocated from its first headquarters in Flushing Meadows Park, Queens, to the East Side of Manhattan.[33] During the 1960s, the views of real estate developer and city leader Robert Moses began to fall out of favor as the anti-Urban Renewal views of Jane Jacobs gained popularity. Citizen rebellion killed a plan to construct an expressway through lower Manhattan.

The transition away from the industrial base toward a service economy picked up speed while the large shipbuilding and garment industries declined sharply. The ports converted to container ships, costing many traditional jobs among longshoremen. Many large corporations moved their headquarters to the suburbs, or to distant cities. However there was enormous growth in services especially finance, education, medicine, tourism, communications and law. New York remained the largest city, and largest metropolitan area, in the United States, and continued as its largest financial, commercial, information, and cultural Center.

Like many major U.S. cities, New York suffered race riots, gang wars and some population decline in the 1960s. Street activists and minority groups like the Black Panthers and Young Lords took matters into their own hands and organized rent strikes and garbage offensives, demanding city services for poor areas. They also set up free health clinics and other programs, as a guide for organizing and gaining "Power to the People." By the 1970s the city had also gained a reputation as a crime-ridden relic of history. In 1975, the city government avoided bankruptcy only through a federal loan and debt restructuring by the Municipal Assistance Corporation, headed by Felix Rohatyn. The city was also forced to accept increased financial scrutiny by an agency of New York State. In 1977, the city was struck by the twin catastrophes of the New York City blackout of 1977 and the Son of Sam serial murderer's continued slayings.

1978–present[edit]

The 1980s saw a rebirth of Wall Street, and the city reclaimed its role at the center of the worldwide financial industry. Unemployment and crime remained high, the latter reaching peak levels in some categories around the close of the decade and the beginning of the 1990s. Neighborhood restoration projects funded by the city and state had very good effects for New York, especially Bedford-Stuyvesant, Harlem, and The Bronx. The city later resumed its social and economic recovery, bolstered by the influx of Asians, Latin Americans, and U.S. citizens, and by new crimefighting techniques on the part of the NYPD. In the late 1990s, the city benefited from the success of the financial sectors, such as Silicon Alley, during the dot com boom, one of the factors in a decade of booming real estate values. New York was also able to attract more business, and convert abandoned industrialized neighborhoods into arts or attractive residential neighborhoods; examples include the Meatpacking District and Chelsea (in Manhattan) and Williamsburg (in Brooklyn). New York's population reached an all-time high in the 2000 census; according to census estimates since 2000, the city has continued to grow, including rapid growth in the most urbanized borough, Manhattan. During this period, New York City was also a site of the September 11 attacks of 2001; nearly 3,000 people were killed by a terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, an event considered highly traumatic for the city but which did not stop the city's rapid regrowth. Hurricane Sandy brought a destructive storm surge to New York City on the evening of October 29, 2012, flooding numerous streets, tunnels and subway lines in Lower Manhattan. It flooded low lying areas of Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island. Electrical power was lost in many parts of the city and its suburbs.[34]

Gallery[edit]

See also[edit]

Boroughs

Streets & thoroughfares

Small islands

Miscellany

References[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Samuel Eliot Morison, The European Discovery of America: The Northern Voyages (1971). p. 490.
  2. ^ "U.S. Bureau of the Census(1900–present)". Census.gov. Retrieved 2010-10-04. 
  3. ^ Rosenwaike, Ira (1972). Population History of New York City by Ira Rosenwaike (p.3 1656, through 1990). ISBN 978-0-8156-2155-3. Retrieved 2010-10-04. 
  4. ^ "City of New York: Population History - Highly Urbanized Boroughs(1790–2000)". Demographia.com. Retrieved 2010-10-04. 
  5. ^ Foote, Thelma Wills (2004). Black and White Manhattan: The History of Racial Formation in Colonial New York. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 25. ISBN 0-19-516537-3. 
  6. ^ Mark Kurlansky, The Big Oyster: History on the Half Shell, New York: Ballantine Books, 2006.
  7. ^ a b "Gotham Center for New York City History" Timeline 1700–1800
  8. ^ Edwin G. Burrows and Mike Wallace, Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898, New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.
  9. ^ a b ""Battery Park". New York City Department of Parks & Recreation. Retrieved on September 13, 2008". Nycgovparks.org. Retrieved 2010-10-04. 
  10. ^ Ellis, Edward Robb (1966). The Epic of New York City. Old Town Books. pp. 37–40. 
  11. ^ Ellis, Edward Robb (1966). The Epic of New York City. Old Town Books. p. 57. 
  12. ^ Scheltema, Gajus and Westerhuijs, Heleen (eds.),Exploring Historic Dutch New York. Museum of the City of New York/Dover Publications, New York 2011.
  13. ^ Homberger, Eric (2005). The Historical Atlas of New York City: A Visual Celebration of 400 Years of New York City's History. Owl Books. p. 34. ISBN 0-8050-7842-8. 
  14. ^ Spencer P.M. Harrington, "Bones and Bureaucrats", Archeology, March/April 1993, accessed 11 February 2012
  15. ^ "The Hidden History of Slavery in New York". The Nation. Retrieved 2008-02-11. 
  16. ^ "Exhibit: Slavery in New York". New York Historical Society. 7 October 2005 to 26 March 2006. Retrieved 2008-02-11.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  17. ^ Rothstein, Edward (26 February 2010). "A Burial Ground and Its Dead Are Given Life". The New York Times. Retrieved 1 March 2010. 
  18. ^ Morison, Samuel Eliot (1972). The Oxford History of the American People. New York City: Mentor. p. 207. ISBN 0-451-62600-1. 
  19. ^ Moore, Nathaniel Fish (1876). An Historical Sketch of Columbia College, in the City of New York, 1754–1876. Columbia College. p. 8. 
  20. ^ "The People's Vote: President George Washington's First Inaugural Speech (1789)". U.S. News and World Report. Retrieved 2007-05-28. 
  21. ^ Bridges, William (1811). Map of the City of New York and Island of Manhattan with Explanatory Remarks and References. 
  22. ^ Lankevich (1998), pp. 67–68.
  23. ^ Bayor, Ronald H. (1997). The New York Irish. Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 91. ISBN 0-8018-5764-3. 
  24. ^ Lankevich (1998), pp. 84–85.
  25. ^ Mushkat, Jerome Mushkat (1990). Fernando Wood: A Political Biography. Kent State University Press. p. 36. ISBN 0-87338-413-X. 
  26. ^ Cook, Adrian (1974). The Armies of the Streets: The New York City Draft Riots of 1863. pp. 193–195. 
  27. ^ The 100 Year Anniversary of the Consolidation of the 5 Boroughs into New York City, New York City. Retrieved June 29, 2007.
  28. ^ Jackson, Kenneth (1995). Encyclopedia of New York City. New Haven: Yale University Press. p. 206.  "[B]orough presidents ... responsible for local administration and public works."
  29. ^ Gerometta, Marshall (2010). "Height: The History of Measuring Tall Buildings". Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat. Retrieved 2010-12-20. 
  30. ^ City Mayors (2007-06-28). "The World's Largest Cities". Retrieved 2007-11-29. 
  31. ^ Allen, Oliver E. (1993). "Chapter 9: The Decline". The Tiger – The Rise and Fall of Tammany Hall. Addison-Wesley Publishing Company. 
  32. ^ CHARLES HAGEN (September 22, 1995). "Art in Review". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-10-10. "In 1945... Todd Webb moved to New York City and began a remarkable project. For the next year Mr. Webb walked the streets of the city with a heavy camera and tripod, photographing the buildings and people he encountered...." 
  33. ^ Burns, Ric (2003-08-22). "The Center of the World – New York: A Documentary Film (Transcript)". PBS. Retrieved 2006-07-20. 
  34. ^ Superstorm Sandy causes at least 9 U.S. deaths as it slams East Coast CNN

Further reading[edit]

Further viewing

External links[edit]