Three-hundred and fifty-eight years ago, on February 2, 1653, New Amsterdam was incorporated. The Dutch colonial settlement served as the capital of New Netherland and later became New York City.
The population of New Netherland rose slowly until 1653, when there were 2,000 residents, 800 of whom lived in New Amsterdam. A steady stream of emigrants poured into the Hudson Valley and the population reached 10,000 by 1664.
The area’s harbor and river had been discovered, explored, and charted in 1609 by an expedition of the Dutch East India Company, captained by Henry Hudson when he first sailed by what is now Manhattan Island.
The territory was surveyed and charted by private commercial companies from 1611-14 on behalf of the States General of the Dutch Republic and operated commercially before it became a provincial extension of the republic in 1624.
Provincial possession was accomplished with the first settlement on Noten Eylandt (Governors Island) in 1624. The next year, the building of a citadel comprising Fort Amsterdam was begun on the southern tip of Manhattan Island, and the first settlers moved there from Governors Island.
New Amsterdam was founded in 1625 by Willem Verhulst, who chose Manhattan as the best place for permanent settlement by the Dutch West India Company. It was made the capital of the province and developed into the largest Dutch colonial settlement in the New Netherland province, which is now the New York Tri-State Region.
To secure the settlers’ property according to Dutch law, Peter Minuit created a deed with the Manhattan Indians in 1626 that signified legal possession of Manhattan. Minuit was appointed New Netherland’s third director by the local council after Verhulst returned home in 1626.
The city aimed to maintain New Netherland’s provincial integrity by defending river access to the company’s fur trade business on the North River (Hudson River). It was also entrusted with safeguarding the company’s exclusive access to New Netherland’s other estuaries; the Delaware and Connecticut rivers.
In 1643, no fewer than 18 languages were spoken in New Amsterdam, and the great city into which it has grown has never lost its cosmopolitan character. It remained a Dutch possession until 1664, when it temporarily fell into the hands of the English.
The Dutch Republic regained it in 1673 with a fleet of 21 ships, renaming the city New Orange. New Netherland was ceded permanently to the English by treaty in 1674. The 1625 date of the founding of New Amsterdam is now commemorated in the official Seal of New York City.