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Early New York

In 1609, the Dutch claimed the New York area. As part of new Netherland, the colony was important in the fur trade and eventually became an agricultural resource thanks to the patroon system. A patroon was a landholder with manorial rights to large tracts of land. Manorial rights are rights that the owner of a manor or estate has to do things such as hunting, shooting, fishing, and rights to hold fairs and markets.
In 1664, the English sent a fleet to conquer New Netherlands but its inhabitants surrendered without a fight. By 1711, New York had built a slave market on the eastern end of wall street. Operating for many decades, it was central to slave transactions in the growing city. Various labors were needed including, domestic work, construction, and shipping. It primarily dealt with the sale and rental of enslaved Africans and Native Americans.
Since large plantations were absent, slaves were often trained to do carpentry and masonry. Despite their unique skills, in 1712, an estimated 20 to 70 slaves, ignited a building, attacked settlers that responded, killed nine, and injured many others. However their rebellion was quickly squashed, when many of them were arrested, hung, went to court, and burned to the stake.
On December 6, 1732 New York hosted its first play performed by professional actors. It was titled The Recruiting Officer and ended with a duel (in the play) . It was written on April 8, 1706 and performed on the same day. It was a huge success and was performed many times in the 1700s. There were two television adaptations of it, one of which has been lost in history, with only fragments remaining .
On March 12, 1733, the Common Council established Bowling Green as New York’s first official park. It was originally a multifunctional area for cattle markets, parades, and Dutch style bowling. Its transformation into a park marked a key evolution in the city’s evolving landscape. Managed by John Chambers, Peter Bayard, and Peter Jay, the park featured grass, trees, and a strong iron gate. This iron gate, replacing the old wooden one, still stands today as one of the oldest symbols of Dutch heritage in New York.
In 1737, New York established its first volunteer fire department. Fire alarms were given using wooden rattles and fires were put out by the use of items such as buckets of water and hand pumpers. It laid the groundwork for modern fire fighting techniques as well as creating the first steps that would lead to today’s public safety infrastructure.
In 1762, New York took an important step in urban development by installing its first street lights, significantly improving nighttime visibility. Street lights reduced the number of car accidents and crimes. This development holds strong historical significance, and a crucial shift to modern infrastructure in New York City.
During the American Revolution, David Mathews became New York’s mayor. He was a loyalist and continued serving the British throne. On June 22, 1776, David Mathews was arrested because patriots suspected him be involved in the Hickey Plot, an attempt to assassinate George Washington. This incident shows the deep divisions between loyalists and patriots during the American Revolution.
On July 2, 1776 the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia passed the Lee Resolution, officially declaring the Thirteen Colonies free of British rule. This decision was followed by the Declaration of Independence just two days later, on July 4. While Independence day is on the 4th, the actual vote was on July 2, 1776. Soon after declaring Independence, British troops captured New York and began a long military struggle with its residents and the British troops.
On September 21, the Great Fire of 1776, engulfed the city, destroying one fourth of its buildings. It almost completely destroyed all wooden structures in New York City. The British suspected many individuals, leading to the arrest of the soldier and spy, Nathan Hale, who is known for his last words, “I only regret that I have one life to live for my country.”

On November 25, 1783, Evacuation day occurred, marking the end of British occupation of New York . The day symbolized the transition from British rule to American self governance and was soon followed by the Treaty of Paris, signed on September 3, 1783, ending the war and recognizing American independence. All four men listed their names in alphabetical order.
In 1784, Alexander Hamilton founded the Bank of New York. He served an important role in America’s economic History by working as the First Secretary of the Treasury. The President of the Bank of New York was Alexander McDougall, who is also famous for his achievements during the Revolutionary War.
On February 22, 1784, the Empress of China (ship) sailed from New York to Canton (now Guangzhou), China. The captain of the ship was John Green and it carried lead, fine camel cloth, cotton, a few barrels of pepper, and ginseng. Ginseng was a root that grew wild in North America and was valued for its healing powers. The Empress of China returned to New York on May 11, 1785, carrying silk, tea, and porcelain.
On February 12, 1791, Peter Cooper was born in New York City. He would eventually become one of America’s greatest inventors and industrialists, as well as growing up to produce the first form of Jell-O. Peter Cooper is widely known as the inventor of the first American Steam locomotive, which greatly revolutionizing transportation and sped up economic growth. In 1859, he founded the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art. This would eventually become one of America’s most prominent education centers.
In 1779, the New York legislature enacted a new law called the Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery, a critical step to the Emancipation Proclamation. Effective after July 4, 1779 and forward, children of enslaved Mothers born after this date would be legally free, but bound to extended servitude until the age of 28 for Males, and 25 for Females. The purpose of this was for the state legislature to stay in a neutral position, or in other words, make everyone happy in such a way to keep the United States together.
Jane Colden, born on March 27, 1724, in New York City as the fifth child of Cadwallader Colden, is widely recognized as the first major female American biologist. She was educated at home and was provided botanical training of the new Linnaeus system by her father, a way of classifying organisms developed by the Swedish Biologist, Carl Linnaeus. Jane Colden worked for eight years compiling as many as 400 unique flora specimens in the Hudson River Valley and classifying them according to the Linnaeus system. She developed a way to make ink impressions of leaves on paper and did ink drawings of 340 of her specimens. Jane Colden died of childbirth in 1766 and was not well known until 129 years later, in 1895, when James Britten published her biography.
Most people think that Joseph Gayetty was born in 1817, but he did not appear in the United States census until 1850, and very little is known about his childhood. In 1857 he patented toilet paper and started his business. In 1833, he got married and had five kids, four sons, and one daughter. The toilet paper he manufactured had splinters because no company could produce splinter free toilet paper, until 1930, when Northern Tissue Company finally discovered a method for cheaply manufacturing it, significantly changing the way people lived.
Charles Alderton was an inventor and pharmacist who was born on June 21, 1857, and died on May, 29, 1941. He is widely credited as the inventor of Dr. Pepper. Alderton noticed that people were tiring of the traditional flavors such as lemon, and vanilla, so in the pursuit of reviving sales, he began experimenting with different flavor combinations and eventually settled with 23 ingredients mixed with phosphoric acid to give it a tang. It got its name because Alderton gave the formula to the owner of the store he worked at, Wade Morrison, who named it Dr. Pepper.
In 1806, Eliza Hamilton, wife of Alexander Hamilton, founded the New York Asylum Society, New York’s first private orphanage. Her contribution was remarkable, she was the society’s director in her 90s. Now 218 years old, it still operates today as Graham Windham, and serves about five thousand children and families every year, taking in the poor, and helping them become parents of their own.
On June 18, 1812, began, significantly impacting New York City, a major U. S. port. British blockades disrupted trade, challenged the economy, yet simultaneously sped up shipbuilding. There were tremendous amounts of Native American deaths. Many Americans know nothing, or very little about this year, in fact the United States invaded Canada three times. British effectively won the war by successfully defending its North American colonies. The war ended on February 18, 1815.
In 1817, the New York Stock and Exchange Board was founded, later renamed the New York Stock Exchange in 1863, marking a defining point in the history of the United States. It has evolved to become one of the largest global stock exchanges, boasting a market capitalization of $25 trillion and an average daily trading volume of over a billion shares. For a majority of its history, the exchange was owned by its members and the only way to become a member was by buying it from the exchange’s 1366 positions. After the Civil War the exchange provided the center for the increasing industrialization in the United States.
On October 26, 1825, the construction of the Erie Canal was completed. This project, led by Governor Dewitt Clinton, aimed to connect the great lakes to the East Coast to unlock more economic potential. Over 1.5 million people visit the Erie Canal every year and the canal has been deepened and widened 3 times since its creation, changing it into a much larger historical monument than it originally was created to be. The Erie Canal is sometimes called the nickname Clinton’s Ditch, after the leader of the project. On December 16, 1835, New York experienced the Great Fire, originating at a warehouse on 25 Merchant Street (now Beaver Street) in Lower Manhattan. Intensified by strong winds, the fire destroyed approximately 700 buildings, across 17 city blocks. After the disaster officials enacted stricter building, and fire codes. The Great Fire caused an estimated $20 million in property damage.
In 1836, Astor House, an early luxury hotel, launched into business. It was built by John Jacob Astor, and construction began in 1834. It contained 309 rooms, and guests could order any of the thirty meat and fish dishes available. Abraham Lincoln stayed in this hotel on his way to his inauguration in February of 1861.
In 1837, the Panic of 1837 struck, making banks fail, businesses close, and unemployment rose dramatically. It started because of a decline in cotton prices, Andrew Jackson’s economic policies, and restrictive lending policies from Britain.
From 1845 to 1852, the Irish Potato Famine caused mass migration to New York City. Potatoes failed to grow because of a pathogen called phytophthora infestans. Large numbers of the poor working class relied on potatoes to feed their families through the cold winter. The Irish population dropped by as much as 25 percent, with some towns losing a dramatic 60. In 1854, the Republican Party was created in response to the Kansas Nebraska Act. The word Republican was adopted in 1792 by supporters of Thomas Jefferson who wanted a decentralized government with limited power. Its abbreviation is GOP (Grand Old Party) and was strongly opposed to the expansion of slavery. It favored (and mostly favors) the National Banking System, the gold standard, railroads, and high tariffs.
In 1857, the Panic of 1857 struck people in the North by banks failing, factories shutting down, and a sudden rise in unemployment. Plantation owners in the south were also affected because of the decline of cotton prices, and the cost of a slaves rose by 3 percent, convincing states in the Deep South that the Northern economy needed the Southern economy for the survival of its people.
In 1860, Abraham Lincoln became the 16th President of the United States of America, the final straw for the outbreak of the Civil War. New York’s major contributions to the War were supplying the Union with a immense source of troops and supplies. It supplied as many as 465000 soldiers, the most of any Union state. The invention of the camera allowed the public to see real photos of life on the battlefield, as well as see the aftermath of gruesome battles.
In 1865, New York transitioned from volunteer fire departments to the Metropolitan Fire Brigade, a professional team of paid workers. This eventually evolved into the Fire Department of New York, and is one of the most respected fire departments in the world. All candidates must undergo a 18 week academy that consists of classroom education, and physical fitness performance.
In 1865, beginning in Washington D. C., President Abraham Lincoln’s funeral procession passed several cities before his casket arrived in New York City, met by 100000 mourners. His coffin was composed of solid walnut, lined with lead, and covered with an expensive black cloth. The coffin was opened on five occasions, with the last being in 1901. It has not been touched since.tt
In 1873, the Bellevue Hospital School of Nursing was founded. The training was based on the principles of Florence Nightingale. This hypothesize was a strict set of rules that involved, good hygiene, cleanliness, as well as having a staff of trained nurses supervised by the head of the clinic. Plans for the school began a year earlier when a group of women, led by Louisa Lee Schuyler, concluded in a report to the State Board of Charities that the condition of public hospitals in New York was unacceptable. She proposed that a supply of trained nurses would greatly improve care in these hospitals, so Schuyler created a committee that would look into the creation of a training schools for nurses.
In 1874, the Tompkins Square Riot occurred. Over 7,000 workers gathered in Tompkins Square . Shortly after 10 a. m., police officers started arriving, eventually peaking at roughly 1,600. The officers beat protesters with clubs and arrested 46 men for fighting back. The square was named after Daniel D. Tompkins, who served as vice president of the United States under James Monroe, and also was the governor of New York.
On September 8, 1875, the New York Athletics Club was founded. Club members have won a total of 271 Olympic medals, 151 gold, 54 silver, and 66 bronze. It has 8,600 members and the only way to get on it is by invitation. It’s members are known for being good at wrestling, fencing, judo, track and field and water polo.
In 1877, the American Museum of Natural History opened its first wing in Manhattan Square. Today, its many specimens include, the largest deep blue diamond in the world, an African Bush Elephant in the main lobby, and a Winchcombe meteorite. Out of 65,000 known meteorites only 1,000 are this specific type. The museum’s rock collection includes about 123,000 specimens, including many rare crystals, and geodes. At today’s value, the rocks and gems in the American Museum of Natural History are worth more than $100 million.
In the summer of 1884, president Ulysses S. Grant developed throat cancer, catching the eyes of the nation as his health slowly declined until his death in 1885. Fortunately, the development of anesthesia had finally given doctors a surgical way to treat cancer. Designed by Charles C. Haight, and completed in 1887, the first portion of the New York Cancer hospital was finalized. Cancer treatment back then was at best, easing pain and making the sufferer as comfortable as possible.
On July 4, 1884, France gave the United States the statue of liberty. It was originally supposed to be placed in Egypt, but was given to New York instead, where it welcomes newcomers every day. The Statue of Liberty gets struck by lightning 600 times every year. It’s design is based on many ancient civilizations, including the Greeks, Romans, and Aztecs. The base of the statue was designed by Joachim Gotsche Giaever, a renowned Norwegian immigrant who helped design many of the United State’s important structures and buildings.
In 1892, the Spence School emerged as a opportunity for women to get an equal education. Its motto is non scholae sed vitae discimus (Latin for not for school, but for life we learn). Clara B. Spence, founder of Spence school described it as, “a place not for mechanical instruction, but a school of character where the common requisites for all have been human feeling, a sense of humor and the spirit of intellectual and moral adventure.”
On August 24, 1893, a catastrophic hurricane struck New York, almost washing away Hog Island. Low areas, particularly on the coast, were flooded, causing corn crops to be destroyed. It was a category 3 event with unknown fatalities and wind speeds of 115 mph, making it one of the most devastating events in New York history.
On October 27, 1904, the New York City Subway opened. Roughly all of its operation has been using something called the Automatic Block Signal, or Track Circuit Block in the United Kingdom. It is a railroad communication system that consists of a series of signals which divide a railway line into a series of sections, called blocks. Despite using signals, there have been at least 65 major train accidents, with the most being the Malborne Street Wreck, causing nearly one hundred fatalities and injuring many more.
In 1908, construction on the Singer Building was completed, making it the tallest building in the world for a year, until it was surpassed by the Metropolitan Life Tower. The lobby was finished with Pavonazzo Marble and was decorated with 42 tons of bronze. When he Singer Building was completed it had 15 elevators and served as the headquarters of the Singer Manufacturing Company. The company had acquired the lot in 1890, for about a $1,000,000 in today’s money.
In 1918, the Spanish Flu Pandemic stuck New York in three severe waves. 30,000 died, with 21,000 being in the second wave of casualties. The flu was brought to New York by the Norwegian vessel Bergensfjord on August 11, 1918. The ship held 11 crew members, of whom 10 were infected with a particularly aggressive form of influenza. Over the course next several weeks, more ships arrived in New York carrying sick passengers. In an attempt to prevent the spread of disease, Dr. Royal S. Copeland put the entire New York Port under quarantine.
The beaver was adopted as New York’s state animal in 1945. Their teeth are yellow because a protective coating on a beaver’s fangs contains iron, which makes their teeth stronger and more resistant to decay. Beavers eat bark, leaves, twigs of deciduous trees, and shrubs. They live 10 to 12 years and baby beavers are called kits. They are also the second largest rodents after capybaras.