History of New York City (prehistory–1664)

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The history of New York City was influenced by the prehistoric geological formation during the last ice age of the territory that is today New York City. The area was long inhabited by the Lenape; after initial European exploration in the 16th century, the Dutch established New Amsterdam in 1626. In 1664, the English conquered the area and renamed it New York.

Human prehistory[edit]

Main article: Lenape

Archaeological excavations indicate that the first humans settled the area as early as 9,000 years ago. These early inhabitants left behind hunting implements and bone heaps. The area was abandoned, however, possibly because the warming climate of the region lead to the local extinction of many larger game species upon which the early inhabitants depended for food.

A second wave of inhabitants entered the region approximately 3,000 years ago and left behind more advanced hunting implements such as bows and arrows. The remains of approximately 80 such early encampments have been found throughout the city. The region has probably remained continually inhabited from that time.

Dutch settlement[edit]

Main article: New Amsterdam

In 1613, the Dutch established a trading post on the western shore of Manhattan Island in the area of present Church Street where the WTC was located; this is the beginning of a global financial center, obtaining thus a commercial spirit from its very humble beginnings.[original research?]

Among its first settlers were Christiaan Hendriksen (who could be considered as a founder of New York City) and Jan Rodrigues the first black man to live in the city.[original research?]

In 1614 the New Netherland company was established and consequently they settled a second fur trading post in what is today Albany, called Fort Nassau. This is considered one of the oldest capital cities in the US.[original research?]

It was not until 1623, however, that the Dutch interests in the area were other than commercial and under the auspices of the newly formed Dutch West India Company they built Fort Amsterdam in 1624, a crude fortification that stood on the location of the present Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House on Bowling Green. The fort was designed mainly to protect the company's trading operations further upriver from attack by other European powers. Within a year, a small settlement, called New Amsterdam had grown around the fort, with a population that included mostly the garrison of company troops, as well as a contingent of Walloon, French and Flemish huguenot families who were brought in primarily to farm the nearby land of lower Manhattan and supply the company operations with food. Sarah Rapalje (b.1625) was the first European born in the future New York City. Later in 1626, Peter Minuit purchased Manhattan Island and Staten Island from native people in exchange for trade goods.[1]

The Dutch took heavy advantage of the Native American reliance on wampum as a trading medium by exchanging cheap European-made metal tools for beaver pelts. By using such tools, the Natives greatly increased the rate of production of wampum, debasing its value for trade. Lenape men abandoned hunting and fishing for food in favor of beaver trapping. Moreover, the Dutch themselves began manufacturing their own wampum with superior tools in order to further dominate the trading network among themselves and the Natives (a practice undertaken by the settlers in New England as well). As a result of this increase, beavers were largely trapped out in the Five Boroughs within two decades, leaving the Lenape largely dependent on the Dutch. As a result, the Native population declined drastically throughout the 17th century through a combination of disease, starvation, and outward migration.

As the beaver trade increasingly shifted to Upstate New York, New Amsterdam became an increasingly important trading hub for the coast of North America. Since New Netherland was a trading operation, and not viewed as colonization enterprise for transplanting Dutch culture, the directors of New Netherland were largely unconcerned with the ethnic and racial balance of the community. The economic activity brought in a wide variety of ethnic groups to the fledging city during the 17th century, including Spanish, Jews, and Africans, some of them as slaves.

Stadt Huys

The Dutch origins can still be seen in many names in New York City, such as Coney Island (from "Konijnen Eiland" – Dutch for "Rabbit Island"), Bowery from bouwerij (modern Dutch boerderij = "farm"), Brooklyn (from Breukelen), Harlem from Haarlem (formalized in 1658 as Nieuw Haarlem), Greenwich Village (from Greenwijck, meaning "pine wood quarter"), Flushing (from Vlissingen) and Staten Island (from "Staaten Eylandt").

Willem Kieft became director general in 1638, but five years later was embroiled in Kieft's War against the Native Americans.[2] The Pavonia Massacre, across the Hudson River in present day Jersey City resulted in the death of eighty natives in February 1643. Following the massacre, eleven Algonquian tribes joined forces and nearly defeated the Dutch. Holland sent additional forces to the aid of Kieft, which took part in the overwhelming defeat of the Native Americans, leading to a peace treaty on August 29, 1645 to end the war.[3]

The island of Manhattan was in some measure self-selected as a future metropolis by its extraordinary natural harbor formed by New York Bay (actually the drowned lower river valley of the Hudson River, enclosed by glacial moraines), the East River (actually a tidal strait) and the Hudson River, all of which are confluent at the southern tip, from which all later development spread. Also of prime importance was the presence of deep fresh water aquifers near the southern tip, especially the Collect Pond, and an unusually varied geography ranging from marshland to large outcrops of Manhattan schist, an extremely hard metamorphic rock that is ideal as an anchor for the foundations of large buildings.

The Fall of New Amsterdam

Arrival of the English[edit]

In 1664, English ships entered Gravesend Bay, in modern Brooklyn and troops marched to capture the ferry across the East River to the city, with minimal resistance: the governor at the time, Peter Stuyvesant, was unpopular with the residents of the city. Articles of Capitulation were drawn up, the Dutch West India Company's colors were struck on September 8, 1664, and the soldiers of the garrison marched to the East River for the trip home to the Netherlands. The date of 1664 appeared on New York City's corporate seal until 1975, when the date was changed to 1625 to reflect the year of Dutch incorporation as a city and to incidentally allow New York to celebrate its 350th anniversary just 11 years after its 300th.

The English renamed the colony New York, after the king's brother James, Duke of York and on June 12, 1665 appointed Thomas Willett the first of the mayors of New York. The city grew northward, remaining the largest and most important city in the colony of New York.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Notes[edit]

4. Population 18,000
5. 50 years later 202,589
6. became the largest in the western hemisphere 
7. today there are more than 8 million people in New York City

Sources[edit]

  • Morison, Samuel Eliot (1972) [1965]. "From the Hudson to the James 1626–1675: 1. New Netherland and New York". The Oxford History of the American People: Prehistory to 1789. New York: New American Library. 
  • Hunter, Douglas (2009). Half Moon: Henry Hudson and the Voyage That Redrew the Map of the New World. New York: Bloomsbury Press. p. 154. ISBN 978-1-59691-680-7. "HENRY HUDSON'S PRECISE WHEREABOUTS in his first week in the vicinity of present-day New York have long caused debate and disagreement. A major challenge in deciphering the events of the Half Moon voyage is the fact that the geographic tableau has changed enormously in four centuries" 

External links[edit]