Strangers In A New Land

Henry Hudson’s First American Adventure

On September 3, 1609, Henry Hudson and the English and Dutch men on the 80-ton Halve Maen (Half Moon) came within sight of the coastline where New York meets New Jersey today. The view of the sandy white beach backed by forest must have appeared Edenic to the perhaps 20 gaunt and exhausted men, who had endured most of the past five months crammed inside the 85-foot vessel, savaged by storms, frigid weather, and an oppressive diet. Read more »

Native Americans First View Whites From The Shore

New York Indians Discover Dutchmen

Whenever Indians and Europeans met, the process of discovery was usually reciprocal. In hindsight, these first encounters were asymmetrically momentous events, presaging catastrophic consequences for the native peoples of North America. Europeans wrote accounts of these meetings; Indians did not. Nevertheless, memories of such meetings passed from generation to generation within the tribes. Some traditions recalled dreams, premonitions, and prophecies that foretold the coming of powerful strangers, stories no doubt retold with increasing bitterness as Europeans kept coming.Read more »

First Encounters

The journeys 400 years ago of a French and Dutch explorer would forever alter the history of North America

Four hundred years ago, at almost exactly the same historical moment, two intrepid European explorers came near to meeting in the wilderness of today’s New York State. Each left his name on the waters he visited, but the impact of their journeys left a far larger shadow on America’s history. This year, from New York City up the Hudson and along the shores of Lake Champlain, dozens of towns, cities, and museums will celebrate the quadricentennial of the arrival of Henry Hudson and Samuel de Champlain.Read more »

America On The Hudson

The town that has seen it all

All those thousands of leagues outward bound from Amsterdam, and now they reached land, land bisected by a vast channel doubtless connecting Atlantic to Pacific and fabled China. The captain had looked for that route even through Arctic ice floes. Now he and his less-than-two-dozen-man crew thought they saw it. Logic indicated that they were in India, so the dark-skinned people gaping from shore were obviously … Indians. The sailors headed north to chart the future spice-trade passage.

Read more »

Of Raleigh And The First Plantation

The Elizabethans and America: Part II -- The fate of the Virginia Colony rested on the endurance of adventurers, the financing of London merchants, and the favor of a courtier with his demanding spinster Queen.

In the marvelous 1580s everything was beginning to ripen together in the heat of the tension between England and Spain. Poetry and the drama that had been so sparse and backward were coming to a head with Sidney and Spenser and Marlowe; the first Elizabethan madrigals appear in the very year the war against Spain begins. And this is the moment when the idea of American colonization takes shape and wing—or, perhaps I should say, takes sail.

The $24 Swindle

The Indians who sold Manhattan were bilked, all right, but they didn’t mind—the land wasn’t theirs anyway

By now it is probably too late to do anything about it, but the unsettling fact remains that the so-called sale of Manhattan Island to the Dutch in 1626 was a totally illegal deal; a group of Brooklyn Indians perpetrated the swindle, and they had no more right to sell Manhattan Island than the present mayor of White Plains would have to declare war on France.Read more »

The Lordly Hudson

Over 350 years a mighty pageant of history has moved through the myth-haunted valley of the “Great River of the Mountains”

Orientals were first upon the river. They came by land, and their journey eastward across the continent from its northwest coast to the banks where, their soothsayers had said, they might rest beside a water that-flows-two-ways, had lasted many generations. There is no knowing who first saw the ocean bound current turn about and run toward the mountains whence it came, but the realization of: a prophecy fulfilled must have come upon him with a stunning impact.