The Dutch were the first of the European invaders to settle in what is today New York City. The settlement was a private business venture and set up to deal with the fur trade. Beginning in 1613, the Dutch bartered with and eliminated the Native Americans. In 1621 Holland granted a huge territory to the Dutch West India Company, and named this territory New Netherland. The territory grew and grew and the main settlement changed its name to New Amsterdam. The Dutch finally managed to perform what was to be the first US hostile buyout and purchased the whole island from the Native Americans for sixty guilders, equal to about twenty-four dollars. They established their administrative headquarters exactly where Manhattan is today. Then the English arrived, seemingly harmless, and settled out on Long Island. At first, they didn’t mix with the Dutch. Both groups spent a lot of time trying to get rid of the Indians, but soon they began to put the same amount of effort into trying to get rid of each other. The English took control of Fort Amsterdam, but then the Dutch took it back and things went back and forth until the final toll was that the Fort changed hands eight times.
The guns at this fort formed what was called a battery, which means all the guns and cannons and whatever other weapons grouped together. This site is called Battery Park today.
While the two groups were caught up in their conflicts — which ended up escalating into three Anglo-Dutch wars — King Charles II sent troops in and took the colony away from both of them. He then turned around and gave the territory to his brother James, Duke of York, along with arbitrary power. Little brother James soon after became king of England, thus making the colony, which included a part of the state of New Jersey, a royal one. He went on to launch an unfriendly takeover and soon made Long Island, which Connecticut settlers had claimed, a part of New York. In 1673 (about 9 years after the push and pull had begun) Holland, which was now at war with England, recaptured New York. But the push and pull didn’t end there, as it was given back to England upon the signing of a treaty in 1674.
And while all this was going on in what was to become The Big Apple, a group of hardy people in upstate New York was busy carving a life for themselves. It was a beautiful area of pinewoods, which the Mohican Indians called Pempotowwuthut-Muhhcanneuw, meaning “the fireplace of the Mohican nation” and the Iroquois called Sche-negh-ta-da, or, “through the pine woods”. The Dutch East-India Company claimed the area in 1609 after the English explorer Henry Hudson, who had been seeking a shorter route to the Far East, came upon it. Dutch merchants saw it as an ideal place to bring furs from the north and ship them to Europe. It was on the Hudson River about 240 km. north of New York City, and only about 16 km. from its confluence with the Mohawk River.
Hostility from Native Americans, French fur traders and flooding made the first colonization short-lived. All that was left were ruins of an old fort that had been built by French traders in 1540, and a few Native Americans that the good Christians had been unable to scare off. The new settlers, who were Dutch, rebuilt the old fort, but it was soon destroyed by floods just as the original one had been. So they developed a Plan B, which was to divide the territory up into farms and lease it out. The landlords themselves were mostly in the fur business, and they began setting up trading posts to deal pelts of North American mammals. The fur trade had a tremendous influence on the colonization of North America, and the area began to grow as it became the gateway to the northeast passages.
In 1664 the English took control, ousting the Dutch, and named the town Albany in honor of the Duke of Albany, which was another title of that same future King James of England, who was to be crowned King of both England and Scotland. In 1683 the province of New York was officially split into counties, with Albany County being the largest. The city of Albany was officially chartered in 1686; about 70 years after the white settlers first began hunting and exterminating the Native Americans and wildlife. It is one of the original 13 colonies, and also the longest continuously chartered city in the U.S. The colonies, by the way, were acting independently even before the 1776 Declaration of Independence.
During the 1700s, Albany was caught up in the War between Great Britain and France, (aka the French and Indian War, 1754-1763; ending with French defeat) and then the Revolutionary War (aka the War of Independence, 1775-1786; ending with British defeat). While the colonists were involved in conflict, Philadelphia, the 1st capital of the colonies, was at one point occupied by British, and so was New York City. But in spite of the surrounding battles, Albany became a center of transportation around this time. First came the turnpikes in the late 1700s. They were mostly built by private investors over existing Indian trails, and usually had tolls. New York became a state in 1788, and Albany its capital in 1797.
Then in 1807 Robert Fulton opened a steamboat line from New York City to Albany. It was a huge success. In 1825 the Erie Canal was completed and it formed a continuous water route from the Great Lakes to New York City. The canal cut transportation costs by 95% and helped New York City become a chief U.S. port. Railroads were first introduced in 1831, and by 1840 there was already a direct railway from Albany to Boston. Business boomed; by 1865 there were almost 4,000 saw mills in the Albany area, and the city was exporting lumber, as well as fur, beer, wheat, and meat, mostly to Europe.
Albany opened one of the first commercial airports in 1928 and in recent years it has enjoyed a growing reputation in high-technology industry. It is the second-oldest capital in the country, after Santa Fe, New Mexico. About 93,836 Albanians live there today, which you can compare to the over 8 million New Yorkers who live in New York City, the most populous US city. Albany’s motto is “Assiduity,” which means perseverance. As for New York City, it is spread out over 5 counties: Bronx, Kings, New York, Queens and Richmond – there are 62 counties in state. New York City has 5 boroughs – Bronx, Manhattan, Queens, Staten Island, and Brooklyn.
I was born near the end of WWII and raised in a small town in New Jersey, just a little more than a 30-minute drive from NYC. It was a wonderful place to be brought up, feeding ducks and canoeing on the river that meandered through the town in the summer, and ice-skating on that same river in the winter.
My two brothers and I were privileged to be raised in a lovely town that was safe to explore on foot, but close enough to NYC to be taken there on day trips to see the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Baily B & B circus, museums, Chinatown, street fairs in the spring and Broadway shows as we grew older. But we thought nothing of it.
Later as teens, we would go into NYC to buy a couple of beers (the drinking age in New York State was 18, and 21 in New Jersey) and hang out in Greenwich Village where we saw singers such as Bob Dylan who were on the first rung of the ladder on their way to fame.
The sixties were a time of speaking out and creating change. I decided to do my part by joining the Peace Corps, an innovative cold war program established by John F. Kennedy in 1961. I arrived in Brazil at the end of 1966, and after an adaptation period, was sent to serve in Porto Nacional, in what was Goias at that time. I can’t say I changed the course of the country, especially as I was immediately called upon to teach English in the local high school.
I have been teaching ever since; high schools, college literature, college language pedagogy, financial English and everything in-between. I married a wonderful Brazilian from Rio and we had 3 boys and moved around some, as he was an engineer who worked on hydro dams. Nowadays I am a widow and live in BH with 3 cats, one of which has extraordinary powers, and I have 4 wonderful and uniquely different grandchildren nearby. Thus far, I have had an interesting life, and this new endeavor called a blog should make it even more interesting.