Manhattan, the story behind its first owners

Manhattan view

Manhattan is the heart of New York. Wall Street, Madison Avenue, 34th Street, Broadway. It is the most iconic borough of The Big Apple. If you don’t believe us, we can continue the endless list of attractions: The World Trade Center, Central Park, the Guggenheim Museum, Rockefeller Center, and neighborhoods like Harlem, the Upper East Side, Times Square and Greenwich Village. We can go like this all day.

Today we want to get you back, some centuries ago and to tell you the story of the purchasing.

For many years, “The island of many hills” (Manhattan in Indian language) was owned by the Lenape tribe. They were native Americans that lived in the area of New Jersey, the Lower Hudson Valley, the Delaware River and Western Long Island. Their lives changed from the beginning of the 16th century.

The Italian explorer Giovanni da VerrazzanoGiovanni da Verrazzano was the first to get to the Manhattan Island. He arrived where today was New York in 1524. He was sailing in the service of the king of France. A bit later, the Portuguese, Estevan Gomez rediscover it as well. So far nothing bad happened. They were just checking the land, but this was about to change with the Dutch.

During that era, the Dutch East Indian Company was massive and powerful. In the year 1609, they sent an expedition led by the Englishman Henry Hudson to search for a shorter way to India. They wanted to control the monopoly of Spices Market.

But instead of doing so, he ended up in Manhattan, and he liked it. He first mapped the area. After that, the Dutch decided to establish a settlement there.

They started occupying more and more territories of the “New World.”This is the beginning of New Netherlands. All the area from the Delmarva Peninsula to Cape Cod. This includes New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware, some parts of Pennsylvania and Rhode Island became under their control.

In what is now Lower Manhattan in the year 1625, construction started. It was the Fort Amsterdam; later it took the name, New Amsterdam.

Manhattan 1625By this time all the area was their dominion, but they felt like they were a bit invading the Indian’s ground and decided to purchase it legally. When you have forts and soldiers already, it is easier to negotiate.

This is how in May 1626, Peter Schaghen, liaison between the Dutch government and the Dutch West India Company signed the contract. The Manhattan island was bought for the equivalent of 60 guilders (less than $1000 in today’s money). The Lenape tribe got: 7246 beaver skins, 675 otter skins, 48 mink skins, 36 lynx skins. 33 minks, 34 muskrat skins. Still better than nothing, right? 

Later this small establishment has given the birth of New York. One of the most important cities in the world.

Learn more about Manhattan Subway.

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