Mirror for Gotham: New York as Seen by Contemporaries from Dutch Days to the Present

By Bayrd Still | Go to book overview

1. WHEN NEW YORK WAS NEW AMSTERDAM

MANY A COMMENTATOR on New York has come to the city seeking opportunity for himself or others, and this was true of the two whose visits resulted in the first accounts of which we have knowledge describing the vicinity of the site upon which New York City was to stand. The first of these, the Florentine Giovanni da Verrazano, blundered upon New York Harbor in April 1524, as he sailed along the coast of the New World in search of a western waterway to China. Reporting his experiences to his sponsor, Francis I of France, he retraced the course of the "Dauphine" as it edged its way northward from the Cape Fear area.

"At the end of a hundred leagues," he wrote, describing their tentative entrance into the Lower Bay, "we found a very agreeable location situated within two prominent hills, in the midst of which flowed to the sea a very great river which was deep at the mouth." Ascending this "river," which must have been the Narrows, the voyagers found themselves in the Upper Bay. From its banks inquisitive natives, "clothed with the feathers of birds of various colors," rushed forward with a joyous welcome. But a "gale of unfavorable wind" discouraged venturing as far inward as Manhattan Island, and sent the explorers scurrying back to the "Dauphine" and away from New York Harbor. "We called it Angoulême," wrote Verrazano to his sponsor, "from the principality which Thou attaindest in a lesser fortune, and the bay which that land makes Sainte- Marguerite, from the name of Thy sister, who surpasses all other matrons in modesty and talent."1

History does not disclose the number of European adventurers who may have visited New York Harbor in the years immediately following Verrazano's tentative venture into this New World "Angoulême." Not until September 1609 was there another recorded contact, that of Henry Hudson, the English navigator, upon whose findings the first permanent European settlement in the area was based. Like Verrazano, Hudson was a symbol of Europe's quest

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Mirror for Gotham: New York as Seen by Contemporaries from Dutch Days to the Present
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Contents xi
  • Illustrations xiii
  • Excerpts from Contemporary Descriptions xv
  • 1. When New York Was New Amsterdam 3
  • 2. New W York Under British Rule 15
  • 3. Resistance, Revolution, and Reconstruction (1765-1789) 37
  • 4. New York in the Early National Period 54
  • 6. a Bustling City (1845-1860) 125
  • 7. New York in the Sixties 167
  • 8. the Emergence of the Modern City (1870-1900) 205
  • 9. the Golden Generation (1900-1930) 257
  • 10. the Maturing Metropolis: World Capital 300
  • Notes 341
  • Bibliography 373
  • Index 401
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