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  Wikipedia: New Amsterdam

Wikipedia: New Amsterdam
New Amsterdam
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

See also: New Amsterdam, Indiana

New Amsterdam (Dutch: Nieuw Amsterdam) was the name of the 17th Century fortified settlement in the New Netherland colony that would eventually become New York City.

Founded in 1626 at the southern tip of the island of Manhattan by the Dutch West India Company, it was the largest Dutch colonial settlement in North America.

(see also Dutch colonization of the Americas)


Early Settlement (1609-1625)

In the early years of the New Netherland colony, the island of Manhattan was not used extensively by the Dutch. The first recorded exploration by the Dutch of area around what is now called New York Bay was in 1609 with the voyage of Henry Hudson, who was attempting to find the Northwest Passage. Instead he brought back news about the possible exploitation of beaver pelts in the area, leading interest by the Dutch in sending further missions to the area. At the time, beaver pelts were highly prized in Europe, especially for their supposed medicinal properties. Several expeditions followed in the next few years, and in 1614, an expedition by Adriaen Block established the first year-round presence.

The colony was intended strictly as a for-profit fur trading enterprise, not as a means to transplant Dutch culture. In this respect, the mouth of the Hudson River paled in comparison with the beaver-rich forests farther inland, where the company's traders could be in close contact with the Indian hunters who supplied them with pelts in exchange for cheap European-made goods and wampum.

Thus in 1624 when the first group of families arrived to operate the trading posts, they were mostly sent inland. The early settlement on Manhattan was confined to several plantations, as well as for the cattle that were released on the island.

Fortification (1625)

In 1625, the ongoing threat of attack from other European colonial powers prompted the directors of the Dutch West India Company to formulate a plan to protect the entrance to the Hudson River, and to gather the trading post operations into the vicinity of the new fort.

There is evidence that the Dutch East India Company was interested in building such a fort as early as 1620, based on a letter dated that year from the English architect Inigo Jones, who had probably been contacted by the company to design the fort. In the letter, Jones advises the company to avoid constructing a timber fort out of haste, but rather to build a moated fortification with stone and lime. Jones' drawing illustrates the traditional star-design that had become prevalent because of its ability to deflect cannon fire.

For the location of the masonry fort, Verhulst and engineer Cryn Fredericks chose a site at the southern tip of Manhattan. The new fortification was to be called Fort Amsterdam. By the end of the year, the site had been staked out in the northeast of what is now Battery Park.


Verhulst was an unpopular director, however, mainly because of his mismanagement of the colony's finances and his poor treatment of the settlers, whom he viewed simply as company employees. In early 1626, Verhulst was replaced by Peter Minuit. As part of the fort-building operation, Minuit began a policy of "purchasing" Manhattan from the local Lenape Indians for 60 guilders worth of trade goods.

This was the foundation of the legend that Minuit had "purchased" Manhattan from the Indians for 24 dollars worth of trinkets. Most historians now agree that the Lenape had no concept of permanent ownership of land, since they moved encampments on a seasonal basis, and lived off whatever land they inhabited. At best, they probably believed they were granting hunting and fishing rights to the Dutch, who would eventually relinguish them when they desired to move on to other grounds.

While the fort was being constructed, the growing Mohawk-Mahican War in the Hudson Valley lead the company to relocate the settlers there to the vicinity of the new Fort Amsterdam. The urgency of the need for the fortification, as well as the fact that the colony as a whole was not making money, led a scaling back of the original plans. Instead of the original masonry fort, a simple blockhouse was constructed surrounded by a palisade of wood and sod. A sawmill was built on what is now Governors Island. The new settlement had a population of approximately 270 people, including infants. .

New Amsterdam was incorporated on February 2, 1653.

In a war between England and the United Netherlands, the New Netherlands were seized by the English, with director general Peter Stuyvesant surrendering New Amsterdam on September 24, 1664. The colony was subsequently renamed New York, after the duke of York—brother of the English king Charles II—who had been granted the lands.

In 1667, the Dutch withdrew their claims on the colony in the Treaty of Breda, as they were granted the rights to Suriname. However, in a subsequent war between the English and the Dutch, the Dutch recaptured the colony briefly in 1673 before handing it over for good after the signing of the Treaty of Westminster on February 19, 1674.

External links


  • Hugh Morrison, Early American Architecture ISBN 0-486-25492-5 (Oxford University Press, 1952) [Dover Ed. 1987]


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 
Modified by Geona