Though born in East Frisia, Steendam grew up in Enkhuizen. His first poetry dates from 1636. He was a member of the circle of Jan Zoet. Already as a young man Steendam served the Dutch West India Company. In 1641 he went to Gold Coast and had an affair with a local woman. Back in Holland he became precentor in Zaandam, and in November 1649 he married Sara Abrahams Roschou in Amsterdam. Steendam published a 3-volume poetry collection, Den Distelvink ("The Goldfinch") in 1649/1650 in that city. Jacob and Sara sailed to the colony of New Amsterdam about 1650, and stayed there till 1662, when they returned to Holland. During his residence in the Dutch settlement, he owned farms at Amersfort and Mespath, a house and lot on what is now Pearl Street, and another on Broadway. He lost his fortune when the English took over Manhattan. He left New Netherland, joined the Dutch East India Company and in 1665/66 the couple took off to Batavia. Here they managed an orphanage and Steendam published poetry until 1671.
In the late 19th century, Henry Cruse Murphy, when he was United States minister to The Hague, discovered some poems written by Steendam on New Amsterdam, and had them printed with an English version in the same metre. Murphy's book is entitled Jacob Steendam noch vaster. A Memoir of the First Poet in New Netherlands, with his Poems descriptive of the Colony (The Hague, 1861). The titles of the two poems are “Complaint of New Amsterdam, in New Netherlands, to her Mother, of her Beginning, Growth, and Present Condition,” and “The Praise of New Netherlands: Spurring Verses to the Lovers of the Colony and Brothership to be established on the South River of New Netherland. Pieter Corneliszoon Plockhoy, of Ziereckzee.”
- Wilson, James Grant; Fiske, John, eds. (1900). "Steendam, Jacob". Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography. New York: D. Appleton.
- Biographies and primary text at dbnl.org