Leo Hershkowitz: Says NYT mangled story about the birthday of NYC

Historians in the News

Re: NYT: New York's Birth Date: Don’t Go by City's Seal

Dear Editor:

There is, in fact, a great deal of evidence in support of 1625 as the date on the City Seal, since 1625 marked the start of the first permanent settlement of what is now New York City. In June, 1625, Cryn Fredericksz, an engineer and surveyor, arrived in New Netherland with instructions issued on April 25, 1625 from the Directors of the Dutch West India Company to build a fortification named Fort Amsterdam, as well as housing on Manhattan island and to move farming from Noten Island (now Governor's Island, the place of first official settlement ) to the site soon to be called New Amsterdam. In accordance with these instructions, the construction of FortAmsterdambegan that year, as did the homes for the first settlers of what was to become this great world metropolis.

The details of construction and settlement are best described in Dr. F.C. Wieder's book entitled De Stichting Van New York in Juli 1625(The Founding of New York in July, 1625).This classic work based on comprehensive archival research in Dutch (which should be translated into English so that English speaking historians and others could understand the significance of the date) is fundamental to any study on the subject of the date of founding of New York City. None of the documents to which Dr. Wieder refers is mentioned in The New York Timesarticle of July 14. The research necessary to uncover the facts seems absent, yet such research and such questioning makes for more interesting and accurate history. There is indeed a"smoking gun" to support 1625. The date is not"arbitrary" or"to beatBoston." It is a date supported by the evidence.

One further word on Paul O'Dwyer. - as President of the City Council he did present a bill on June 16, 1974 to change the date on the seal from 1664 to 1625, based on the historic material presented to him at the time. It was not intended to"twist the British Lion's tail," rather it was to show that Dutch heritage preceded that of the British and to be historically correct

Leo Hershkowitz, Professor of History,

QueensCollege, CUNY

Flushing, New York

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