City Life | New York City, New York

© Sophie W. Smith

Joined October 2012

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A permanent European presence in New Netherland began in 1624 – making New York the 12th oldest continuously occupied European-established settlement in the continental United States – with the founding of a Dutch fur trading settlement on Governors Island. In 1625 construction was started on a citadel and a Fort Amsterdam on Manhattan Island, later called New Amsterdam (Nieuw Amsterdam). The colony of New Amsterdam was centered at the site which would eventually become Lower Manhattan. The Dutch colonial Director-General Peter Minuit purchased the island of Manhattan from the Canarsie, a small band of the Lenape,86 in 1626 for a value of 60 guilders (about $1000 in 2006);a disproved legend says that Manhattan was purchased for $24 worth of glass beads.
In 1664, Peter Stuyvesant, the Director-General of the colony of New Netherland, surrendered New Amsterdam to the English without bloodshed. The English promptly renamed the fledgling city “New York” after the Duke of York (later King James II).
On August 24, 1673, Dutch captain Anthonio Colve took over the colony of New York from England and rechristened it “New Orange” to honor the Prince of Orange, King William III. However, facing defeat from the British and French, who had teamed up to destroy Dutch trading routes, the Dutch returned the island to England in 1674.
At the end of the Second Anglo-Dutch War, the English gained New Amsterdam (New York) in North America in exchange for Dutch control of Run, an Indonesian island. Several intertribal wars among the Native Americans and some epidemics brought on by contact with the Europeans caused sizable population losses for the Lenape between the years 1660 and 1670. By 1700, the Lenape population had diminished to 200.
New York experienced several yellow fever epidemics in the 18th century, losing ten percent of its population to the disease in 1702.
New York grew in importance as a trading port while under British rule in the early 1700s. It also became a center of slavery, with 42% of households holding slaves by 1730, more than any other city other than Charleston, South Carolina. Most slaveholders held a few or several domestic slaves, but others hired them out to work at labor. Slavery became integrally tied to New York’s economy through the labor of slaves throughout the port, and the banks and shipping tied to the South. Discovery of the African Burying Ground in the 1990s, during construction of a new federal courthouse near Foley Square, revealed that tens of thousands of Africans had been buried in the area in the colonial years.
The trial in Manhattan of John Peter Zenger in 1735 helped to establish the freedom of the press in North America. In 1754, Columbia University was founded under charter by King George II as King’s College in Lower Manhattan. The Stamp Act Congress met in New York in October 1765 as the Sons of Liberty organized in the city, skirmishing over the next ten years with British troops stationed there. Read more

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