New Amsterdam Podcasts

Life in New Amsterdam: How the Dutch helped build the foundations of New York City history

PODCAST Back when old New York was once New Amsterdam.

We are turning back the clock to the very beginning of New York City history with this special two-part episode, looking at the very beginnings of European settlement in the area and the first significant Dutch presence on the island known as Manhattan.

The Dutch were drawn to the New World not because of its beauty, but because of its beavers. Beaver pelts were all the rage in European fashion, and European explorers like Henry Hudson reported back that this unexplored land was filled with the animals and their beautiful coats.

Of course, people were already living here — the tribes of the Lenape — and the first settlers sent by the Dutch — French-speaking Walloons — encountered them in the mid 1620s. But relations were relatively good between the two parties at the beginning. Could the native Munsee-speaking people and the first Dutch settlers get along?

In this episode, we walk you through the first two decades of life in the settlement of New Amsterdam, confined to the southern tip of Manhattan. What was the island like back then? How did people live and work in a region so entirely unknown to its European inhabitants?

Listen Now: New Amsterdam History Podcast


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The official seal of New York City contains many clues to the city’s history. It also features not one, but two, beavers.

Manhattan Unlocked

The original coat of arms for New Amsterdam and New Netherland.

New York Public Library

Henry Hudson on a vintage cigarette card.

George Arents Collection/New York Public LIbrary

A 1614 map drawn by explorer Adriaen Block, labeling the entire place New Nederlandt!

I. N. Phelps Stokes Collection of American Historical Prints/ New York Public Library

A look at New Amsterdam in it might have looked in 1640. Note the windmill in the background and gallows on Capske Hook!

New-York Historical Society
“As it appeared about the year 1640, while under the Dutch Government. Copied from an ancient Etching of the same size Publd. by Justus Danckers, at Amsterdam. Printed and Published by H. R. Robinson, 52 Courtlandt Street New York” Courtesy Museum of the City of New York

An illustration from the 1921 book A History of the United States by Henry Eldridge Bourne. A Dutch blacksmith shop and a farm scene, Manhattan Island, where a brookside path with the name of Maiden Lane followed a valley to the East River

From the same book — a look at Fort Amsterdam and Capske Hook.

An illustration of New Amsterdam clearly depicts its placement in the larger scheme of the New Netherland territory (and, as the years went by, its increasing prominence as both a tobacco producer and a component of the Dutch transatlantic slave trade).

New York Public Library

A look at New Amsterdam in the year 1642, dominated by the fort to the south and a sheep’s pasture and various farms to the north.

Plan of New Amsterdam About 1644, map dated 1902, compiled from the Dutch and English records by J. H. Innes.

Museum of the City of New York

The Pieter Schaghen letter outlining the purchase of the island of Manhattan. This letter is located at the New Netherland Research Center.


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