New York. The Big Apple, the Capital of the World, the City of Dreams – with so many great nicknames, one really stands out: The City So Nice, They Named It Twice. You have probably heard this one often, especially if you’re a fan of Gerard Kenny.
But it’s not just the rhyming words or the fact that it came from a popular song. What makes it stand out is that the amazing history of New York coincides with the lyrics.
This is the story of how New Netherlands came to be the New York we now know.
The Dutch Settlement in America
It all began in 1609 when English explorer Henry Hudson, a representative of Dutch East India Company, was sent to explore for a passage to the Indies. He led his voyage to the area that is now known as New York and up the river that now bears his name.
Seeing that the land was filled with natural resources, he went back to report to his employers of this rich land. Soon after, merchants from Amsterdam began sending their agents to this new land to collect furs, timber, food, and tobacco. As news spread about this region, more merchants and traders followed and soon, a colony was born.
This was known as the New Netherland. Other Dutch settlers found a place in areas like New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware, and Pennsylvania.
New Amsterdam was born after Peter Minuit made one of the best real estate deals in history. According to US History, Minuit traded Manhattan Island from the Natives with trinkets. It was then re-named to New Amsterdam.
The Dutch and Native Americans grew dependent on each other – finding a way to make a relationship where one can benefit from the other. The Natives delivered fur pelts to their Dutch colonizers. In exchange, they acquired tools, weapons, cloths, and alcohol from the foreigners.
However, the point of the colonization was to make sure the stockholders became rich. New Netherlands was governed with an iron fist and slavery was common during the Dutch era.
There was also uneven trade happening between the Dutch and the Native Americans. It caused armed conflicts between the Dutch and the Native Americans, and even between the different Native American groups.
Finally, National Geographic believes that the Dutch also brought diseases that the Natives were particularly susceptible to.
From New Netherlands to New York
From 1612 to the 1660’s, Dutch settlers came in and out of New Netherlands. But things had to end when the British claimed interest in the land.
History tells of the Dutch and the English rivalry. In 1664, King Charles II of England was able to take New Netherlands by force. He then bestowed the land to his brother, the Duke of York.
Since then, New Netherlands became New York.
New York At Present
New York may have changed its name but the Dutch still left remnants of their time there. From the names of places in the city to Christmas and Easter tradition, the Dutch influence is very much alive to this day.
For example, the names Harlem and Brooklyn were clear indications of their stay. According to Transparent, Harlem was named after Haarlem which was just outside of Amsterdam. Brooklyn was named after Breukelen which can be located just outside of Utrecht.
But these are not the only ones that will sound familiar to a lot of Dutch people. Bowery, The Bronx, and Coney Island are just a few mainstays from the Dutch tradition to survive until today.
Later settlers have also left their mark in present-day New York. You can visit the 17th century Wyckhoff House located in Brooklyn. There’s also the 18th century Dyckman House in Manhattan.
Thank the Dutch
Do you know that some of the things you enjoy most these days were influenced by the Dutch?
If it weren’t for them, New Yorkers probably won’t be celebrating New Year’s Eve with neighbors and friends over some drink. Even the thought of Santa Claus wouldn’t have come to mind if it weren’t for them. They also introduced Easter eggs during the celebration of Easter.
The Dutch may have left New York, but some of their customs survived to this day and is now widely known.
So, the next time you enjoy bowling or skating, or your cookies and pancakes, thank the Dutch that once ruled New York.
When it comes to the colonization of America, we always think about the English. But diving deeper into the history and we can learn more about the places we have always called home.
It’s always great to stumble into a place, even with just its name, that connects it to significant events of the past. The next time you are out in the streets of New York, take time to look around and try to see the layers of culture and history behind every building, tree, and the people around you.