New York, Age 400, Looks Back to Holland

Exhibition features letter signaling founding of Manhattan
By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 11, 2009 10:16 AM CDT
"View at New Amsterdam," a 1665 painting by Johannes Vingboons in the collection of the Rijksmuseum.   (AP Photo/Rijksmuseum/Nationaal Archief, file)
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(Newser) – Today is an unhappy date in New York, but tomorrow is a much more joyous anniversary—on Sept. 12, 1609, Henry Hudson sailed up the river that now bears his name, leading to the founding of New Amsterdam. The Dutch royal family will visit for the anniversary, and two historical exhibitions include major loans from the Netherlands. One includes the 1626 letter attesting that Dutch settlers had bought Manhattan from the natives for "the value of 60 guilders," famously converted to $24.

New Amsterdam: The Island at the Center of the World, on view at the South Street Seaport Museum, doesn't provide as much context as you might like, says New York Times critic Edward Rothstein. But it shows how New Amsterdam, unlike English colonies such as Jamestown, boasted diversity and a rollicking free market. That's not unlike the present day. New Amsterdam didn't endure, but the colony's Dutch roots had a "lasting impact on the character of New York."