The Taking of Manhattan Island
Part 1: New World Arrivals

More of this Feature

• Part 2: Trinkets and Promises

It all started with a bunch of Dutchmen.

Actually, Dutchwomen were probably involved, too. Let’s call them Dutch settlers.

In the 17th Century (which is really the 1600s), settlers from the Netherlands (who for some reason are called Dutch instead of Netherlanders) arrived in the New World. Since Columbus had “discovered” the New World in 1492, Europeans had been racing one another to get a piece of the “new” land. People from England, France, Spain, Portugal, and now the Netherlands were angling for their right to buy property in the newly named America.

The Native Americans already lived in America, of course, in many places up and down the Atlantic coast and also farther inland. These people had lived in America, in fact, for hundreds and perhaps thousands of years. They lived in huts that they had built themselves. They were established farmers and certainly didn’t need Europeans coming over and showing them how to grow better crops.

But come the Europeans did. Soon, English colonies dotted the Atlantic coast, French trading outposts carved a path through Canada and what would become the American Midwest, Spanish colonies took hold in Florida and South America, and Dutch colonists like Peter Minuit tried to make a new living in the new place called America. (Swedish settlers were nearby as well.)

Born in 1580 in Holland (yet another name for the Netherlands), Peter Minuit grew up as the son of a businessman and decided that he wanted to be a businessman himself. So he went to the equivalent of business school back then, which was to watch other businessmen do business and work as an apprentice to learn the trade.

Learn the trade he did, and in 1626, he became the head of a settlement near present-day New York. The settlement was owned by the Dutch West India Company. This company, among other things, had lots of beads. Beads, at this time, were a very valuable thing to have. Not too many people used money in those days. They preferred to trade things that they could use themselves—like clothing and tools. Beads were expensive to make and expensive to buy. They were small and shiny, and everyone who had them wanted more.

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