The glory of Manhattan has ever
been its prestige in the world of commerce and of trade; a metropolis
where the merchants of the world might find a market for their wares.
Amid these conditions and the influences acquired at the demands of commerce,
a mighty and glorious city has arisen.
it was the same state of affairs which existed in the early days when
the traffic with the Netherlands, in the furs and skins of the Indian
trader, made necessary its rise from a mere trading post to the leading
city of the American continent.
dealings with the foreign world made its aspect truly cosmopolitan, a
condition which did not exist in reference to any of the other colonies
was practically a farming, home-making settlement, and Plymouth at that
time merely a refuge for a persecuted people. Hence it is but small wonder
that a city of trade should be established and prosper in a location midway
between the two. Geographically Manhattan Island occupies the natural
location where such a commercial venture could but prosper, and which
has since received the recognition, as was its due — a fact which,
shorn of all its view of sentiment, is still romantic: from the days of
Hendrik Hudson's venture-seeking voyage; through the occupation of the
various Dutch governors; the rule of Great Britain; the second tenure
of the Dutch; again to revert to English control; and, finally, the era
of American independence, under which the present city of New York has
thriven and advanced. The island of Manhattan was, at this time, a mass
of wood-crowned hills and grassy valleys, extending northward from the
bay through a gently rolling region of marsh and glade, and peopled by
Indians who, although savages, were supposed to be of a superior class
to the average red man encountered by the early settlers.
the north were to be found bear, deer, beaver, and innumerable wild fowl,
which, as with the Indian, served the Dutch as edibles of great relish,
as well as proving valuable for the hides and pelts.
Indian inhabitants, known as Manna-hattoes, paid much attention to their
appearance and dress, which they fashioned from the skins of the fur-bearing
animals abounding thereabouts, and decorated with beads and feathers.
Their crowns were shaven, and moccasins of soft leather covered their
feet; thus, with pipe and tomahawk and bow and arrows, was constituted
their individual paraphernalia. They lived commonly in huts of a sufficient
size to accommodate comfortably a half-dozen or more; and, though clannish
to a certain extent, were possessed of considerable knowledge and acquaintance
of the neighboring tribes. They were great hunters and traders, and the
peltrie secured by all the tribes in the vicinity, beyond what was needed
for their own uses, ultimately found its way into the store-houses of
the Manhattan Indians, as soon after as the first Dutch traders made the
standard of value by which such transactions were bargained for was the
wampum, the universal Indian money.
wampum was made of the interior of the conch shell, of two colors, white,
and bluish or purplish black, of which the black equaled in value two
of the white; three black wampums being about the value of two cents.
The shells were commonly strung together in belts of a certain standard
width and six feet in length, the black being valued at about five dollars,
and the white two dollars and a half. Thus another characteristic of the
early stamp of commerce upon the beginnings of the city is made apparent,
and the seed afterward sown by the Dutch burgomasters was propagated to
an almost incalculable extent through the various transitory periods unto
the present day.
discoverer of Manhattan Island was undoubtedly Verrazano, a Florentine,
who, under the patronage of the French, voyaged for the purpose of exploration
and discovery throughout the North Atlantic, and who, in 1504, nearly
one hundred and twenty-five years before the Dutch were finally ensconced
as proprietors, anchored his ship at the “mouthe of an exceeding
greate streme of water,” landed, and erected a wooden cross bearing
a metal plate inscribed with the royal arms of France, and took possession
of the land in the name of Francis, most Christian King of France and
Navarre. Later voyagers passed and repassed the site of New Amsterdam,
but none thought it of sufficient importance, or were encouraged to enter
the bay or prospect in the immediate neighborhood, until the advent of
Hendrik Hudson, a venturesome navigator descended from ancestors high
in the circles of English trade for many generations. Hudson was then
on a voyage of discovery for the Dutch East India Company of Amsterdam,
with orders to locate, if possible, the long-sought-for new route to the
Orient, a problem which has since even remained unsolved.
previous experience and acquaintance with other navigators and explorers
seemed to augur well for his ability to carry out the plans of his employers.
The expedition was fitted out in a Dutch galliot, a clumsy craft of eighty
tons burden, with square-sails on the two forward masts, and a mixed crew
of twenty English and Dutch sailors. His instructions were “to search
for nothing but a northwest passage.” If he failed in this, he can
hardly be said to have erred in his final judgment and report to the Company
in reference to Mannahatta, which was, in the tongue of that day:
a good land to fall in with, lads, and a pleasant land to see.”
Meeting with many hardships and near approach to disaster, Hudson sought
diligently for the hoped-for channel, but, finally, after severe buffeting
about in northern waters, he was blown southward as far as the coast of
Virginia. From here he cruised northward until was sighted the hills of
Neversink. Here he anchored, at the portals of the gateway to New York,
on September 2, 1609.
the following day the ship was cautiously propelled up into the lower
bay. At some distance Indians were observed paddling about in canoes;
then were the first introductions to the original settlers of Manhattan.
The Indians soon drew near in their canoes, and in an attempt at parley
offered tobacco as a peace-offering.
the eleventh of September the craft came up through the Narrows, and anchored
in full view of Manhattan Island, with the great river stretching northward
even beyond the gaze or knowledge of the explorers, and which they believed
was the long-looked-for pathway to Cathay. The following days were occupied
by the voyage up the river, and on the seventeenth they arrived opposite
the present city of Hudson. The final up-river point which they reached
is a mooted question, although it is generally admitted that they got
as far as Castle Island, just below Albany, and in an open boat proceeded
thence to the head of navigation.
the twenty-third of the month the ship dropped down toward Manhattan Island,
and eleven days later sailed from the mouth of the great North River for
Holland. Upon his arrival Hudson reported to the officers of the Company
the results of his discoveries, which inspired those worthy officials
to further extend their interests and province, and, if possible, to open
up trading relations with the natives.