History of New York

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This article is about the history of New York State.
For a history of the city see: History of New York City.

New York, the "Empire State" has been at the center of American politics, finance, industry, transportation and culture since it was created by the Dutch in the 17th century.


New NetherlandsEdit

The Dutch, who began to establish trading-posts on the Hudson River in 1613, claimed jurisdiction over the territory between the Connecticut and the Delaware Rivers, which they called New Netherlands. The government was vested in "The United New Netherland Company," chartered in 1616, and then in "The Dutch West India Company," chartered in 1621.

The Dutch were the first European settlers in the colony known as New Netherland. Fort Nassau was founded near the site of present-day Albany in 1614 and abandoned in 1618. About thirty Walloon families settled on the shores of the Hudson River now in present-day New York City and on the Delaware River around 1624, making them the first European inhabitants of the site. The Dutch also established Fort Orange near present-day Albany in 1624. New Amsterdam was established on the island of Manhattan which a year later Peter Minuit purchased from the Lenape. After the English took over in 1664, the colony was renamed New York, after the Duke of York, the future King James II.

In 1649, a convention of the settlers petitioned the "Lords States-General of the United Netherlands" to grant them "suitable burgher government," such as their High Mightinesses shall consider adapted to this province, and resembling somewhat the government of our Fatherland," with certain permanent privileges , that they might pursue "the trade of our country." These grants embraced all the lands between the west bank of the Connecticut River and the east bank of (the) Delaware.

Province of New YorkEdit

The Duke of York in 1664 sent an army which took possession of New Amsterdam and which was thenceforth called Province of New York. This conquest was confirmed by the Treaty of Breda, in July 1667. In July 1673, a Dutch fleet recaptured New York and held it until it was traded to the English by the Treaty of Westminster in February 1674. The second grant was obtained by the Duke of York in July 1674 to perfect his title.

The western part of New York had been settled by the six nations of the Iroquois Confederacy for at least 500 years before Europeans came. The Iroquois had maintained the area between Seneca and Cayuga Lakes by annual burning as a grassland prairie, abounding in wild game including grazing American Bison herds. In colonial times, the Iroquois were prosperous, growing corn, vegetables and orchards, and keeping cows and hogs; fish and game were abundant. Upstate New York (as well as parts of present Ontario, Quebec, Pennsylvania, and Ohio) was occupied by the Five Nations (after 1720 becoming Six Nations, when joined by Tuscarora) of the Iroquois Confederacy for at least a half millennium before the Europeans came.

The colonial charter of New York granted unlimited westward expansion. Massachusetts' charter had the same provision, causing territorial disputes between the colonies and with the Iroquois.

On November 1, 1683, the government was reorganized, and the state was divided into twelve counties, each of which was subdivided into towns. Ten of those counties still exist (see below), but two (Cornwall and Dukes) were in territory purchased by the Duke of York from the Earl of Stirling, and are no longer within the territory of the State of New York, having been transferred by treaty to Massachusetts, Dukes in 1686 and Cornwall in 1692. While the number of counties has been increased to 62, the pattern still remains that a town in New York State is a subdivision of a county, similar to New England.

The British government appointed the governors of the Province of New York, they were not elected. They are listed at List of colonial governors of New York

Upstate New York was also the scene of fighting during the French and Indian War, with British and French forces contesting control of Lake Champlain in association with Native American allies. Sir William Johnson and other agents promoted the participation of the Iroquois, and the Proclamation Line of 1763 which protected the Indians from further English settlement.

State of New YorkEdit

At the onset of the Revolutionary War, there lay a vast tract of land from the upper Mohawk River to Lake Erie, that was thinly occupied by the Iroquois and virtually unknown to the colonists. Since the colonial charters of both Massachusetts and New York granted unlimited westward expansion, the claim to this tract was disputed. There were also many tensions between the original Dutch settlers in the Hudson and Mohawk Valleys and the English who were rapidly arriving in Eastern New York, and the Germans were also establishing settlements in the Mohawk area. The Sullivan Expedition of 1779 and other military actions resolved the situation in favor of the English settlers.

During the period prior to the American Revolution, a territorial dispute developed between New York and the Republic of Vermont that continued until after the war. Ultimately, the colonial counties of Cumberland and Gloucester became part of Vermont after 1777.

Early national period: 1783-1820Edit

After a furious controversy, led by Alexander Hamilton, New York ratified the new federal United States Constitution, on July 26, 1788, and New York became the 11th state in the union with New York City being its national capital (until 1790).

The Erie Canal Edit

Main article: Erie Canal

Roads were poor and very slow, so bad they were that travelers often went astray, venturing into Indian camps and risking life and limb. The easiest and cheapest travel was by waterway. Ships could easily navigate up the Hudson to Albany. The Mohawk river provided a more difficult connection to the central part of the state. From 1807 there was much talk of building a canal system. Governor DeWitt Clinton became the chief sponsor, and in 1817 the first portion of a canal was begun, to connect the Hudson River with Lake Erie (and thence to the rest of the Great Lakes). The easy part was built first, a series of bypasses of rapids on the Mohawk River.

Though there was opposition, and the canal was derisively called "Clinton's Ditch" or worse, "Clinton's Folly," the canal was finally completed in 1825. Officially the event was celebrated by cannon shots along the length, and by Governor Clinton ceremonially pouring Lake Erie water into the New York Harbor in the "Wedding of the Waters." The Erie Canal proved to be a stroke of genius, as settlers now poured from New England, Eastern New York and Europe into the central and western part of the state. Others went on to Ohio and Michigan. The Canal was the first serious route for settlement west of the Appalachian Mountains, which had previously been a geographic barrier. Now upstate farms and industries could easily ship their products to the large and growing market of New York City and beyond. Had the Welland Canal, which bypassed Niagara Falls to connect Lakes Ontario and Erie, been built first, instead of in 1833, the history of North America could have been far different, with Montreal possibly becoming the main eastern port, instead of New York City.

The Erie Canal, though no longer so important a trade route (it is supplanted by railroads and highways) still defines the central commerce belt of New York State. The port city of Buffalo, Lockport, where the canal crossed a great limestone ridge, mill-town and beautiful 'Flower City' Rochester on the Genessee, and many smaller cities owe their growth, perhaps even their existence, to the Erie. Connecting canals were also built to Lake Ontario and the larger Finger Lakes.

Settlement of Northern New YorkEdit

In 1791, [Alex Bahret (1748 - 1831)|had gotten rich as a merchant in the American Revolution, bought 3,670,715 acres (14,855 km²) of northern New York at about twelve cents an acre. The tract, that ran along the St. Lawrence River and eastern Lake Ontario, including the Thousand Islands, was divided into ten large townships; the deeds for all the lands that are now included in Lewis, Jefferson, St. Lawrence and Franklin Counties, as well as portions of Herkimer and Oswego Counties are derived from this purchase. The land was divided into townships and sections for sale. See also the history of the Adirondacks.

Empire state industrializes: 1820-1920Edit

Pre-Civil WarEdit

Upstate New York was the "Burned-Over District", a zone of intense religious and reform activity. typified by revivalist Charles Grandison Finney.

Two denominations emerged: the Seventh-day Adventist Church and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Benevolent reform movements (establishing Sunday Schools, and orphanages), temperance groups (abolishing the consumption of alcohol), antislavery societies, and women’s rights activists also found enthusiastic supporters in upstate New York between 1825 and 1860. Social experiments in communal living appeared in utopian communities at Oneida and Skaneateles; the best known are the Shaker villages near Albany. Historian Alice Felt Tyler called it a "ferment of reform."

At the same time, upstate New York was at the cutting edge of the transportation revolution, the agricultural revolution, the industrial revolution, and even the urban revolution. Turnpikes, canals, and railroads connected eastern cities with western markets. Especially important was the route from Albany to Buffalo, connected with the Seneca Turnpike (1803), Erie Canal (1825), and New York Central Railroad (1853). In agriculture, New York’s farmland, much of it former Haudenosaunee homeland, was some of the most productive in the nation. The Genesee country, from the Finger Lakes west, became known as the breadbasket of the nation for its extraordinary grain production. At key sites (such at Troy-Cohoes, the Sauquoit Creek west of Utica, Oswego, Seneca Falls, and Rochester), rapid-flowing rivers offered power for major industrial sites. In terms of urban growth, cities in New York State, along with those in the rest of the country, grew more rapidly between 1820 and 1860 than in any other period in U.S. history.

Following these expanding economic opportunities, people (including African Americans as well as European Americans of many different backgrounds) poured into upstate New York. They came from several different culture hearths—New England Yankees, Dutch and Yorkers from eastern New York, Germans and Scots Irish from Pennsylvania, and immigrants from England and Ireland. Upstate New York State became a place where people of many different backgrounds moved rapidly into the same area and created a volatile combination of voices and dramatic new movements.

Civil WarEdit

Gilded AgeEdit

Trains and local railways brought urban sprawl to rural areas surrounding cities, which were rapidly filling with immigrants. The amalgamation of these suburbs became a political issue.

Progressive EraEdit

The governorships of Theodore Roosevelt, Charles Evans Hughes and Al Smith made New York a major factor in the Progressive Era.

Modern state: 1920-1975Edit

Boom years: 1920-1929Edit

Depression and war 1929-1945Edit


Suburban growthEdit

Politics: Smith, Lehman, Dewey, RockefellerEdit

Postmodern state: 1976-2006Edit

Rustbelt economyEdit

Service economyEdit



  • Eisenstadt, Peter, Laura-Eve Moss, and Carole F. Huxley, eds. The Encyclopedia Of New York State (2005) 1900 pages of articles by experts.
  • Ellis, David M., James A. Frost, Harold C. Syrett, and Harry J. Carman. A History of New York State. Rev. ed. Cornell University Press, 1967.
  • Ellis, David M., James A. Frost, and William B. Fink. New York: The Empire State . 4th ed. Prentice-Hall, 1975.
  • Flick, Alexander C. (ed.). History of the State of New York. 10 vol, 1933–37
  • Hedrick, U.P. A History of Agriculture in the State of New York (1983)
  • Jackson, Kenneth T. ed, The Encyclopedia of New York City (1995)
  • Klein, Milton M., ed. The Empire State: A History of New York. Cornell University Press, 2001. the latest scholarly overview
  • Thompson, J. H. ed., The Geography of New York State (rev. ed. 1977);

Pre 1820Edit

  • Becker, Carl Becker. The History of Political Parties in the Province of New York, 1760-1776. (1909).
  • Bonomi, Patricia U. A Factious People: Politics and Society in Colonial New York. 1971.
  • Countryman, Edward. A People In Revolution: The American Revolution and Political Society in New York, 1760-1790. 1981.
  • DePauw, Linda. The Eleventh Pillar: New York State and the Federal Constitution. Cornell Univ. Press, 1966.
  • Fox, Dixon Ryan. The Decline of the Aristocracy in the Politics of New York. Columbia Univ. Press, 1919.
  • Kammen, Michael. Colonial New York: A History. 1975.
  • Kenney, Alice P. Stubborn for Liberty: The Dutch in New York.Syracuse University Press, 1975.
  • Kim, Sung Bok, Landlord and Tennant in Colonial New York: Manorial Society 1664-1775 (1978)
  • McManus, Edgar J - A History of Negro Slavery in New York (1966)
  • Spaulding, E. Wilder. New York in the Critical Period, 1781-1789. Columbia Univ. Press, 1932.
  • Young, Alfred F. The Democratic Republicans of New York: The Origins, 1763-1797. U. of North Carolina Press, 1967.


  • Martin Bruegel. Farm, Shop, Landing: The Rise of a Market Society in the Hudson Valley, 1780-1860 (2002)
  • Cross, Whitney R. The Burned Over District: The Social and Intellectual History of Enthusiastic Religion in Western New York, 1800-1850 (1950)
  • Kaminski, John P. George Clinton: Yeoman Politician of the New Republic (1993)
  • Niven, John. Martin Van Buren: The Romantic Age of American Politics (1983)
  • Shaw, Ronald E. Erie Water West : a history of the Erie Canal, 1792-1854. (University of Kentucky Press, 1966)
  • Van Dusen, Glyndon, William Henry Seward (1967)
  • Yellowitz, Irwin. Labor and the Progressive Movement in New York State, 1897-1916. [1965].


  • Bellush, Bernard; Franklin D. Roosevelt as Governor of New York (1955) online
  • Connery, Robert H. and Gerald Benjamin. Governing New York State: The Rockefeller Years, (1974) online.
  • Davis Kenneth S. FDR: The New York Years, 1928-1933. 1979.
  • Galie, Peter J.; Ordered Liberty: A Constitutional History of New York (1996)
  • Gallagher, Jay. The Politics of Decline, A Chronicle of New York's Descent and What You Can Do To Save Your State (2005), conservative critique
  • Ingalls, Robert P. Herbert H. Lehman and New York's Little New Deal (1975)
  • Liebschutz, Sarah F., Robert W. Bailey, Jeffrey M. Stonecash, Joseph F. Zimmerman, and Jane Shapiro Zacek; New York Politics & Government: Competition and Compassion (1998) textbook online
  • McClelland, Peter D., and Alan L. Magdovitz, Crisis in the Making: The Political Economy of New York State since 1945 (1981)
  • McElvaine Robert S. Mario Cuomo: A Biography. 1988.
  • Marlin, George J. Squandered Opportunities: New York's Pataki Years (2006) by Conservative party activist
  • Moscow Warren. Politics in the Empire State. 1948.
  • Munger Frank J., and Ralph A. Straitz. New York Politics. 1960.
  • Mumpower, Jeryl L., and Warren F. Ilchman, New York State in the Year 2000 (1988)
  • New York State Writers' Program; New York: A Guide to the Empire State (1940) famous guidebook by WPA online
  • Pecorella, Robert F., and Jeffrey M. Stonecash. Governing New York State (2006)
  • Slayton, Robert A. Empire Statesman: The Rise and Redemption of Al Smith (2001)
  • Smith, Richard Norton. Thomas E. Dewey and His Times. 1982,
  • Stonecash, Jeffrey M., John K. White, and Peter W. Colby, eds., Governing New York State (1994)
  • Thompson, John Henry. The Geography of New York State (1977)
  • Zeller, Belle; Pressure Politics in New York: A Study of Group Representation before the Legislature (1937) online

External linksEdit

This page uses content from the English language Wikipedia. The original content was at History of New York. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with this Familypedia wiki, the content of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons License.

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