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Bright lights, Time’s Square, The Statue of Liberty – all staples of one of the most renowned cities in the world: New York


New York City is not only filled with a rich and influential history, but it’s also one of the largest cities in the state. What’s more, the Big Apple has been recognized for housing the highest population across all cities in the United States. While the Empire State wasn’t always defined by its massive skyscrapers, its historical impact spans the gamut when it comes to the arts, culture, finance, and media. 



When Was New York City Built and Who Founded It?

Early Beginnings of New York

First explored by the Europeans, a Florentine in the service of France named Giovanni da Verrazzano is credited with discovering New York Harbor in 1524. Despite this massive find, another 100 years passed before the first settlers made their way to the area. In 1609, Henry Hudson, an Englishman who was employed by the Dutch, reached the bay by sailboat, cruising across the river that now bears his name.


Welcome to New Amsterdam

It was the year 1624 when the new Dutch West India Company sent the first group of settlers to what we now recognize as Lower Manhattan. Colonists worked alongside one another later that Spring to build a small town, subsequently naming it New Amsterdam. Peter Stuyvesant and Peter Minuit became the first two individuals to govern the territory, helping establish what later became a lively trading post. 



How Did New York City Get Its Name? 

The 1664 British Establishment

Germans, Walloons, Spaniards, Scandinavians, and Portuguese immigrants were among the earliest settlers to call the territory home. In 1634, approximately 1,500 inhabitants were residing in the area, along with 18 different languages spoken among the melting pot of individuals. 


In an effort to protect Dutch settlers from the British, Governor Peter Stuyvesant decided to build a wall across the expanse of the island (now present-day Wall Street) in 1653. The endeavor wound up being futile, however, as Dutch settlers, who were unable to put up a fight, surrendered to the British on September 8, 1664. Shortly after, King Charles II honored his brother, the Duke of York, by renaming New Amsterdam to New York

new york city history

For a brief period in 1673, the Dutch reclaimed the territory, calling it “New Orange” for the Prince of Orange. Only a year later, however, the British regained control, passing a treaty to finalize the shift in ownership. Later on, in the 18th century, the town blossomed into a city, harboring over 25,000 residents. 

With the British in control, the city became split between pro-independence “Patriots” and loyalists to the crown. On June 27, 1775, half of those individuals went to cheer on George Washington as he went on to command the Continental Army in Boston, while the other half of the population were down by the harbor welcoming back the English governor who was returning from London. 


New York remained under British control until the Siege of Yorktown in 1781, which effectively put an end to the Revolutionary War. England finally recognized American independence two years later. After Washington’s triumphant return to New York, he became the country’s first president. While Philadelphia officially became the nation’s capital in 1790, New York remained the title of America’s commercial center. 



What Are Some Significant Events That Shaped New York?

The Opening of the Statue of Liberty

In 1886, Lady Liberty, one of today’s most iconic and recognized emblems of New York City opened on Ellis Island. The Statue of Liberty was a celebratory gift from France to commemorate the Union’s victorious win in the American Civil War. The monument is replete with symbolism – with her broken chains, torch, and tablet of law representation of hope and freedom. 


Ellis Island: A Historical Immigration Site

For over 60 years – from 1892 till its closure in 1954, Ellis Island was an infamous gateway for all immigrants relocating to the U.S.’s east coast. Located between New Jersey and New York – at the mouth of the Hudson River – millions of immigrants passed through Ellis Island. It’s estimated that nearly 40% of current American citizens are able to trace at least one ancestor back to their arrival at Ellis Island. 

statue of liberty in NYC

The New York World Fair: 1930 to 1940

In the early days, world fairs focused extensively on technology, industrialization, and scientific progression. This changed, however, when New York City hosted the World’s Fair from 1939 to 1940. The theme, which centered around society and culture, was the “Dawn of a New Day.” It wasn’t just Americans who participated, countries around the globe took part in the festivities, attracting nearly 44 million people to the event. 


Headquarters of the United Nations

Founded in 1945, the United Nations (UN), named by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, was established to help maintain peace and international security, foster relationships among nations, promote human rights, and serve as a way for nations to harmonize their actions. Originally formed after the conclusion of World War II, the UN began with 51 member states and has since grown to include over 193. The security council for the UN met in London up until 1952 when New York City became its official headquarters. New York City is home to four of the UN’s main components (except for the International Court of Justice located in Hague), including the General Assembly, Economic and Social Council, Security Council, and Secretariat.


The September 11th Attacks

America and residents of New York City will never forget the tragic events that took place on September 11, 2001. Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda were responsible for the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon that day, which took the lives of 3,000 people and injured over 6,000 more. To this day, first responders are still dealing with the health effects of responses to the attacks. The painful and heart-wrenching events of that day led the U.S. to launch a War on Terror. A 9/11 Memorial has been erected in NYC as a way to commemorate and honor all those who lost their lives that day. It is also a symbol of New York’s resilience and unity in times of crisis. 


Before the Empire State was a playground of skyscrapers and buildings, the city was home to a number of famous historical events. New York City’s rich history is responsible for creating the city of lights and action as we know it today.