With its nearly 8.5 million citizens, the City of New York is the largest city in the US. Throughout its 5 centuries of diverse history, New York changed its borderlines, population, and demographic balance many times, to present times, when it’s one of the cities with most immigration percentage.
NYC is a city with high ethnic diversity, although English is one the main language and 800 more different languages are spoken. Today’s face of New York is defined by its dynamic history of migration, wars, economic and cultural growth.
Let’s follow the history to the origins of the city and see how it formed, developed and became what it is today, a desired destination for living and tourism.
The indigenous people, living in the territories of present New York, were the Native Americans called Lenape. The Lenape people spoke Algonquian language and were organized groups of hunting and trading inhabitants. The Lenape, by the time of the European settlement, were cultivating fields, taking the harvest. By the mid. 16th century, the Native American population in the region was about 5000 people.
The first European, who stepped on New York land was Giovanni da Verrazzano, an Italian sailor, and commandant of a French ship. He found the American land while seeking new sea paths to Asia.
The European settlement in this area began in September 1609, when Henry Hudson, an English sea explorer landed there. He was under the employment of a Dutch company. Hudson, attracted by the high population of beavers, decided to use the resource if beaver fur for trading. This is how New Amsterdam, a trade port, was settled as a Dutch trading colony.
As a colony, needed administrative headquarter, so Fort Amsterdam was built around 1626. The Dutch needed working force, so they started to import African slaves as workers. It didn’t take long for the locals to react, they joined forces to attack the Dutch and nearly defeated them in 1645. Nine years later New Amsterdam was incorporated as a city with a mayor.
NY During 17th & 18th Century
In 1664 the British invaded the territory of New Amsterdam and declared it as English colony, renaming the city to New York, in honor of the Duke of York. The Dutch tried to regain the city but didn’t succeed. In the roll of the century, the Lenape people had decreased to only 200.
Meanwhile, the British continued to import slaves and in the beginning of the 18th century, nearly 40% of the inhabitant were slaves. Within the next 70 years the percentage of the slaves decreased to 25%, but still, one-quarter of the locals had house slaves.
The so-called Stamp Act – a tax issued to the people of the British colonies in America, which required a tax to be paid for the legal use of all kinds of British paper materials, within the borders of America. The British used the money gathered from the taxes to subsidy the British military presence in America. However, the Americans refused to pay taxes, offering great resistance. This issue led to the American Revolution in 1766.
The American colonists, created resistance organizations, such as the Sons of Liberty, to stand against British measures. The Continental Army, led by General George Washington lost the battle for Long Island, then relocated to Manhattan. The lost another battle for Fort Washington and this was the end of the revolution, with a victory for the British, which kept the influence over the territory.
For the next nearly 20 years, New York suffered from the British occupation. It was twice devastated by fire, while it was a military and political center of the Englishmen. The British were defeated finally in 1783.
New York As Capital
In 1875 the Continental Congress, a delegate assembling of all 10 colonies, met in New York, to set it as the first national capital of the US. New York remained capital until 1790, and during this time many institutions started to function officially- the Supreme Court, The Federal Bank of Rights and the Federal Hall.
19th Century Growth
With the beginning of the 19th century, New York was fully recovered from the Revolution and started to increase its trade and industry levels. Cotton production took a major part of NY’s industry, but New Yorkers were seeking an easier way to transfer their goods. The Erie Canal, a nearly 400-mile waterline connecting the Lake Erie with the Hudson River was finished in 1825.
The city’s infrastructure was expanded to the undeveloped areas of Manhattan, building avenues and the famous grid of block streets. The first Police Department was established in NY.
New York experienced great income of immigrants during the 19th century. Immigrants from Germany and Ireland moved to NY in the 40’s and 50’s of the 19th century and settled in distinct neighborhoods. They started local business and joined the labor unions, slowly the immigrants formed their community. The Tammany Hall, a political organization of the Democratic Party, led by Fernando Wood, is a proof of the strong support among Irish immigrants.
American Civil War
The civil war started in 1861 and lasted four years. It was the result of the conflict between the industrial Northern states and the Southern states, built their plantation industry on slavery labor. President Lincoln declared against slavery, which led to one of the bloodiest conflicts.
New York was affected by this conflict, because of its strong relations with the South, as a main export destination. Riots, assaults, and fight against African Americans appeared in NY, during the years of the civil war.
Modern History – 20th Century NYC
On the front door of 1900, in 1989 New York became a consolidated city, gathering Manhattan and other four boroughs- the Bronx, Queens, Staten Island, and Brooklyn into one common city structure. It’s full population at this time was 3.4 million people.
New York met the 20th century as one well-developed cities, attracting the attention of tourist and more incoming foreigners, who were seeking work. New York’s industry reached high levels, suburbs already existed and many companies choose NY for their headquarters. The Subway opened in 1904 and Grand Central Terminal was finished a year earlier.
The Great Depression affected New York as well, but the construction of skyscrapers continued. Buildings like Chrysler and Empire State Building were brought to life during these years.
In the first years after the end of the World War II, New York met great economic boom. The veterans and soldiers returning from war fields, combined with the constant income of foreigners plus the great migration of African Americans, coming from the South made NYC pulsating city. The city expanded its range and infrastructure due to the need for new housing developments.
Wall Street played a great role to make NY such an attractive and financially tempting place to live. In the 50’s and the 60’s NYC were preferred tourist destination. The economy focus changed from manufacturing towards services – finance, education, communication, medicine.
The 80’s and 90’s were years of financial boom and technology development. Again thanks to Wall Street NY took the first place of world’s financial center. In the internet boom of the 90’s led to the strong commercial growth of Internet services and devices. The Silicon Alley, formed in Manhattan became NYC’s most innovative technology sector, which is still NYC’s most successful industry.
NYC In The New Millennium
The millennium was marked by the tragedy of 9/11 at the World Trade Center in 2001- attacked by terrorists. The twin towers were crashed to the ground killing and injuring nearly 3000 people. Three years later on the place of the attack One World Center reached to the sky.
Despite the terrorist attacks, NYC is still leading power in the financial, cultural and economic matter, visited by 50 million domestic and foreign tourists per year!!! It is a staggering number!