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New Amsterdam - Brief History

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Brief History of New Netherland (1609-1674)

In the year 1609, the Dutch Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie (Dutch East India Company) commissioned Henry Hudson to find a northeast passage to India. With the ship 'Halve Maen' Hudson thus discovered 'Delaware Bay' and explored the river that was to carry his name. In the river, Hudson found an island which he called 'Manna-hata'.

In 1623, The Dutch West-Indische Compagnie (Dutch West India Company) took over the exploration in the New World. They started to consolidate the earliest settlements, which stretched from North (in current Connecticut) to South (in current Delaware). In 1626, these settlements became part of Nieuw-Nederland (New Netherland]), a new formal 'province' of Holland. The province would remain a Dutch possession until 1674 (Treaty of Westminster which ended the third Anglo- Dutch war).

(Note: many old maps also refer to 'Novo Belgio' (New Belgium). The role of Flemish and Walloons in the settlement of New Amsterdam should not be underestimated).
  • 1609-1624 - The first settlers. During the surveys of the island between 1611 and 1614, under explorer Adriaen Courtsen Block, the island was settled by the Dutch for the first time in 1613.
  • 1625-1652 - Fort Amsterdam. Construction of a fortified citadel started in 1625. In 1626, Dutch governor Peter Minuit 'acquired' the land from the native Lenape indians. Fort Amsterdam became the provincial capital of Nieuw-Nederland. Today, the year 1625 is considered the formal birth year of New York City.
  • 1653-1664 - New Amsterdam. Fort Amsterdam had grown into what was probably the most vibrant colonial trading place. In 1653, it was formally incorporated as a city by the Dutch.
  • 1664-1673 - New York. In 1664, in a period of successive anglo-dutch wars, the English annexed New Amsterdam and called it New York.
  • 1673-1674 - New Orange. For a brief period, the Dutch recaptured the city and temporarily renamed it New Orange. The Treaty of Westminster (1674) would finally bring the Anglo-Dutch wars to an end, with Holland forever ceding New Amsterdam to the English.

It is difficult to estimate the size of the immigration. The population of New Netherland is estimated at around 9,000 citizens in 1664. Given that around 250 ships sailed to New Amsterdam between 1609-1674, it would be safe to assume that we're talking about at least 3,000 adults and their children. Prof. Albert B. Faust estimates the total number at around 6,000.

By the year 1646, the population was already very diverse. It is estimated that, at that time, 18 languages were spoken in New Amsterdam, and ethnic groups within New Amsterdam included Dutch, Danes, English, Flemish, French, Germans, Irish, Italians, Norwegians, Poles, Portuguese, Scots, Swedes, Walloons, and Bohemians.

About Nieuw-Nederland (New Netherland)

Governors of the Dutch Province

Nieuw-Nederland population estimates

  • 1628 : 270
  • 1630 : 300
  • 1640 : 500 (in 1647, New Amsterdam has an estimated 150 houses and 6-800 inhabitants - source: J.K Paulding, Affairs and Men of New Amsterdam, 1843)
  • 1650 : 800-1,000
  • 1664 : 9,000
  • Beyond this timeframe...

The city of New York had 3,000 residents in 1683, and 4,200 in 1702. (Source: W.E. De Riemer in his 1905 book on the De Riemer Family)

The English province of New York had 18,067 residents according to the 1698 census. (Source: Ye Olde Ulster genealogical magazine)