General Historical Information Prior to 1900

Probably the first European to visit the vicinity of New York was
Giovanni Verrazano, who came in 1524; in 1525 the Spanish navigator Gomez
sailed into the harbor ; and by 1600 the French seem to have begun an
extensive trade with the Indians along the Hudson. In September, 1609, Henry
Hudson (q.v.) explored the harbor  and the river ; in 1613 four trading
houses were built on Manhattan Island---"Manhatanis" (meaning "those who
dwell upon an island") being the name applied to the aboriginal Delaware
inhabitants;  and in 1614 Adriaen Block, preparatory to exploring the New
England coast, built here his little vessel the Onrust, or Restless,
probably the second ship to be built in America. In 1614 the States General
of Holland chartered the United New Netherland Company of Amsterdam, and in
1621 this was succeeded by the West India Company, chartered with power to
make treaties, maintain courts, and employ soldiers. In 1623 permanent
colonists, sent out by the Dutch West India Company, arrived under Cornelis
May as Director-General or Governor. In 1624 May was superseded by Verhulst,
who in turn was replaced in 1626 by Peter Minuit. Minuit in this year bought
the island from the indians for goods valued at 60 guilders, or $24.00
(about $120.00 in present values), and built near the present Bowling Green
a small fort, Fort Amsterdam---the settlement itself, then having a
population of 200, being called New Amsterdam. In 1628 a church was
organized and the first clergyman, Rev. Jonas Michaelius, arrived at New
Amsterdam. Wouter Van Twiller was Governor of the colony from 1633 to 1638,
William Kieft from 1638 to 1647, and Peter Stuyvesant from 1647 to 1664. In
1643 the Dutch, without provocation, massacred 120 Algonquin Indians, who
had come to them for protection, and a bloody Indian war ensued, lasting for
two years, and almost depopulating the settlement. In 1653 New Amsterdam ,
with a population of about 800, was incorporated as a city, and in the same
year a wall 2340 feet long was built along the site of the present Wall
Street as a protection against the English and the Indians.

   In March, 1664, Charles II, granted New Netherland to his brother James,
Duke of York, and on September 8th Col. Richard Nicolls with an English
force took possession of the city and renamed it New York. Nicolls was
Governor until 1668, when he succeeded by Francis Lovelace. On August 9,
1673, the Dutch regained possession , and the province became New Netherland
as before, the city becoming New Orange, and Anthony Colve replacing
Lovelace as Governor. On November 10, 1674, the Dutch again gave way to the
English, Edmund Andros becoming Governor; in 1686 the first city charter,
known as the Dongan Charter, from Thomas Dongan, Governor in 1681-88, was
issued  (though it was never confirmed by James II.) ; and in 1689, Andros
being overthrown, Leisler usurped control and held it until early in 1691,
when he was executed for treason. See LEISLER, JACOB.

   In 1690 the first intercolonial Congress (called to consider an attack on
Canada) was held in New York---Massachusetts, Plymouth,  Connecticut,
Maryland, and New York being represented ---and in the same year the only
Mayor elected by the people until after 1832 was chosen. Slavery had been
introduced in 1625; in 1712 a negro insurrection was put down with much
cruelty, twenty one negroes being executed (some by burning, others by
hanging, and one by breaking on the wheel) ; and in 1741 the discovery of a
supposed plot, "The Great Negro Plot," caused a panic, during which four
whites were executed, and 154 negroes were arrested , of whom 13 were burned
at the stake, 18 were hanged, and 71 were transported. In 1693 William
Bradford set up the first printing press in New York ; in 1703 the first
free school was opened; and in 1725 the first newspaper, the New York
Gazette, was founded.  A city library was organized in 1729, and a classical
academy was opened in 1732. In 1731 a new charter, known as the "Montgomerie
Charter," was granted to the city. In 1732 a monthly stage was established
between New York and Boston, the trip taking two weeks each way, and in 1756
a Philadelphia stage, taking "three days through only," began running.

   John Peter Zenger, who had founded the New York Weekly Journal in 1733,
was arrested and prosecuted for libel by the authorities in 1734, but he was
acquitted in the following year after a famous trial---his acquittal being
regarded as the greatest vindication in the colonial period of the freedom
of the press.

       In 1765 the Stamp Act Congress (see Stamp Act) met in
New York, and on January 18, 1770, nearly seven weeks before the Boston
Massacre, British soldiers killed one citizen and wounded three in a riot
caused by the destruction by the soldiers of a liberty pole set up by the
"Sons of Liberty." This riot, called the "Battle of Golden Hill," is ranked
by some writers as "the first conflict of the War of the American
Revolution." In 1774, during the excitement over the tea tax, a ship loaded
with tea was sent back to England, and the cargo of another was thrown
overboard. When news of the battle of Lexington reached New York, a
'Committee of Safety' assumed control of the City and Governor Tryon took
refuge on a British man-of-war. In the early summer of 1776 a large part of
the American troops were quartered in New York. On July 8th, in the presence
of Washington, the Declaration of Independence was for the first time
publicly read to them, and on the 9th the equestrian statue of George III.,
erected on Bowling Green in 1770, was torn down. On September 14, 1776, a
short time after the battle of Long Island (q.v.), the city was evacuated by
the Americans and was occupied on the following day by the British, who held
it until November 25, 1783---' Evacuation Day. ' On September 15, 1776, a
large portion of the city was destroyed by fire. During the British
occupation the city was the refuge of Loyalists, who came from all quarters
to take advantage of British protection, many of the more wealthy and
influencial residents joining their ranks. From 1785 to 1790 Congress met in
New York in the old city Hall, at the corner of Wall and Nassau streets, and
here Washington was inaugurated, April 30, 1789.

   In 1785 a manumission society was formed and the Bank of New York was
organized. In 1789 the Tammany Society (q.v.) or Columbian Order was
organized. During an epidemic of yellow fever, from October, 1794, to July,
1795, more than 600 persons, and during another in 1798 more than 2000
persons died. In 1790 the population numbered 33,131, and the city limits
were extended to the lower line of the present City Hall Park. In 1805 the
population was 78,770, and since then, especially after the War of 1812,
when immigration greatly increased, the growth has been very rapid. In 1807
Fulton's steamboat, the Clermont, began running regularly between New York
and Albany. In 1812 a steam ferry to Long Island was opened, and a line of
Sound steamers was established in 1818, while in 1819 the Savannah, built in
New York, successfully crossed the Atlantic. The Erie Canal, begun in 1817,
was completed in 1825---the first boat, Seneca Chief, reaching New York on
November 4th---and gave an extraordinary impetus to the growth of the city.
In 1832 an epidemic of cholera caused the death of 4000 persons, and another
two years later caused the death of nearly 1000. In 1835, December 16-19,
occured the most disastrous fire in the history of the city, the entire east
side below Wall Street, including about 650 stores, the Merchants' Exchange,
and the South Dutch Church, being destroyed, with a loss of almost
$10,000,000. The financial panic of 1837 caused many failures, and the great
destitution and suffering in the city led to the Bread Riots of that year.

      From 1820 to 1870 riots were frequent, one of the most serious being
the Astor Place Riot (q.v.) of May 10, 1849, in which 141 soldiers were wounded,
while 34 rioters were killed and many more wounded. In the same year more
than 5000 persons died of the cholera.  Another riot occurred in 1857,
growing out of a conflict between two police organizations, when the Seventh
Regiment of militia was called out to preserve the peace. The Croton
acqueduct was completed in 1842 ; and on July 14, 1853, the Crystal Palace
Industrial Exhibition was opened on what is now Bryant Square. Another
severe financial panic occured in 1857, followed by suspension of banks and
business failures.

       On the approach of the Civil War many in the city seemed
to favor the South, and in January, 1861, The Mayor, Fernando Wood (q.v.),
proclaimed secession to be "a fixed fact," and proposed that an independent
commonwealth, to be called "Tri-Insula," be formed out of Manhattan, Long,
and Staten Islands. The city, however, loyally supported the Union during
the war, sending to the front  116,382 soldiers at a cost of about
$14,500,000. In July, 1863, occurred the Draft Riots (q.v.), lasting three
days, during which business was suspended, property worth more than
$1,500,000 was destroyed, and more than 1000 lives were lost.. The city
suffered for several years from frauds, perpetrated by the "Tweed Ring",
which controlled municipal affairs, but in 1871 the "Ring" was convicted of
having robbed the city of more than $20,000,000, and was effectually broken
up. (See TWEED, WILLIAM M.). In 1869 a financial panic of 1873 caused the
greatest suffering in New York City, although its growth continued unabated.
On May 24, 1883, the Brooklyn Bridge was formally opened, and in 1886 the
Bartholdi Statue of Liberty was unveiled. New York has been the scene of
many imposing processions and celebrations: On the occasion of Lafayette's
visit in 1824; the celebration of the opening of the Erie Canal in 1825; the
funeral processions of Lincoln, April 25, 1865, and of General Grant, August
8, 1885; the laying of the Atlantic cable, 1858; the opening of the Brooklyn
Bridge; the centennial celebration of Washington's inauguration as President
of the United States, in 1889 (from April 29th to May 1st) ; the Columbian
celebrations of October, 1892, and April, 1893 ; the reception to the
Santiago fleet in 1898; and the Dewey reception in 1899.

BIBLIOGRAPHY......Lamb, History of the City of New York (New York, 1880) ;
Lossing, History of New York City (ib.,1885) ; Roosevelt, History of New
York (ib.,1891) ; Wilson, Memorial History of the City of New York
(ib.,1891-93) ; Janvier, In Old new York (ib., 1894) ; Goodwin, Royce, and
Putnam, Historic New York (ib.,1898) ; Leslin, History of Greater New York
(ib., 1899) ; Wilson, New York, Old and New (Philadelphia, 1903). Special
periods are treated in Guernsey, New York City and Vicinity During the War
of 1812-15, Vol. i. (New York, 1890)  Phistere, New York in the War of the
Rebellion (Albany, 1890); Colton, Annals of Old Manhattan, 1609-64 (ib.,
1902) ; Inness, New Amsterdam and Its People (ib., 1903). Consult:, also,
for a popular treatment of the city government, Coler, Municipal Government
(New York, 1900) ; for the financial history, Durand, The Finances of New
York City (ib., 1898) ; and for the economic improvement, Riis, How the
Other Half Lives (ib., 1890); id., The Battle with the Slum (ib., 1902)


The abovementioned article was taken from:
Source: The New International Encyclopaedia
Copyright:  1902, 1903, 1904, 1905
Pubvlisher:  Dodd, Mead and Company--New York
Volume:  Total of 21 volumes

Transcribed by Miriam Medina