Dutch Museum Shows New York's 'Birth Certificate'


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AMSTERDAM (AP) -- To see some of the most important documents in the early history of New York, you need to go to Amsterdam.

The Rijksmuseum, the Netherland's national museum, put those documents on display Friday, including early maps and the only report of the purchase of Manhattan by Europeans.

The exhibit marks the 400th anniversary of the departure of Henry Hudson in April 1609 on the expedition that would lead to colonization of the New York area.

Hudson sailed up the river that would one day bear his name that September, working for the Netherlands' Far East Indies Company.

Hudson was looking for a new route to Asia, which he never found. But news of his other discoveries set off a spate of further expeditions by the Dutch, who were eager to capitalize on trading fur with indigenous tribes.

The exhibition shows the first map of Manhattan as an island, dating from 1614.

Dutch settlers formed a colony they called the ''New Netherlands'' and chose the island as an ideal trading post and capital. They acquired it from natives in 1625 and dubbed it ''New Amsterdam'' -- a name which stuck until the British conquered the area in 1664 and changed it to New York.

The only record of the Dutch purchase, which is usually stored in the Netherlands national archives, is the so-called ''Schaghen Letter,'' sometimes referred to as New York's ''birth certificate.''

It is a 1626 report by Dutch bureaucrat Pieter Schaghen, who interviewed a ship captain returning from the colony for government records. The captain told Schaghen colonists had purchased an island called ''Manna Hatta'' for 60 guilders worth of goods.

Curator Martine Gosselink said native American would have viewed the trade as more of a rental contract -- but the rest is history.

''American textbooks usually dismiss the goods as beads and mirrors worth only $24, but 60 guilders at that time was more like a year's salary for a soldier,'' she said. ''The goods they gave included knives, chisels, pots, kettles, and blankets in addition to the shells.''

A detailed 1665 painting by Johannes Vingboons is also on display, portraying the early city like a small Dutch village of the period. A windmill stands out in the background, and the town's gallows are prominently on the coast in plain view of arriving ships.

The documents are on display through June. They will move to New York's South Street Seaport Museum as part of a larger exhibition in September.

Hudson returned to the Americas in 1610 to search for a ''Northwest Passage'' to Asia through modern Canada, this time in the service of English companies. After spending a winter with their ship trapped in the ice, his crew mutinied in the summer of 1611 when he wanted to continue exploring.

Survivors of the expedition said they set Hudson, his teenage son and eight others who didn't join the mutiny adrift somewhere in what is now known as Hudson's Bay and they were never seen again.


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