Why was colonial New York founded?

New York's Founding

  • New York was peopled by the Native American Indians long before the Vikings explored it and long before the Dutch colonists rediscovered and settled it. When Peter Minuit bought it, New York was not yet founded for the charter for New Amsterdam (as New York City under the Dutch was called) was not granted until 1624 or almost two years after Peter Minuit purchased it from the Indians. New York was "founded" as a city in 1624 because the Dutch 1) needed a trading outpost for beaver pelts; and 2) the city had a great and strategically located port. The British took New Amsterdam almost by force in 1664 and renamed it New York City after the brother of the King of England, the Duke of York.
  • Why? To make money... The Dutch (or Nederlanders, or Walloons, or whatever...) established "New Amsterdam" (as "New York" was originally known) as a trading post and commercial colony. It was no nation, but rather a private corporation, the Dutch West Indies Company (DWIC), that wanted to set up colonies as, you might say, franchises: people who wanted to try a new life, could go to one of their pre-established colonies, and give it a shot. They would then support industries in which the DWIC was engaged. The business in New Amsterdam was beaver pelts. This was a very popular material in Europe, particularly for hats (beaver is somewhat waterproof) and the Americas had a huge supply. Trappers would come down the Hudson and other rivers with beaver pelts, and trade them for goods. The DWIC would take their cut, and all would be happy. Problem was, the beaver trade was not lucrative enough to cover the cost of running and protecting a distant colony. So, when the British threatened to take New Amsterdam by force, the Dutch simply gave it up. As to why the British wanted it, it had a good port, and the Dutch were in the way of their consolidating the region under their control.
  • Actually, the mayor of New Amsterdam sent a call out for arms against the English. However, since he was largely unliked by the colonists there no one bothered with it. They were nowhere near ready to fight.