Friday, May 24, 2013

May 24 (1626, 1941) Peter Minuit buys Manhattan; Happy Bday Bob Dylan! "Old New York City is a friendly old town"

In the letter, dated November the 5th 1626 and directed to the States General, WIC-administrator Pieter Schagen described the situation of New Amsterdam. Among other things he mentioned the fact that the island of Manhattan had been purchased from the Indians for goods worth sixty Dutch guilders.

On this day in 1626, Peter Minuit purchased Manhattan from the Lenape Indians.

The purchase price of 60 guilders (roughly translated to $24) is often cited as evidence of the one-side nature of the transaction, though, it's possible that both parties left feeling satisfied.  At the time, Native American tribes simply did not think of land as something that could be sold, and most likely were happy to receive intangible benefits such as a military alliance against rival Indians and increased trade. Indeed, Mr. Minuit's reign as governor of New Amsterdam is remembered for its relative peace and stability.

The purchase of Manhattan has inspired many pop culture renderings including one by singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, who was born on this day in 1941 (he turns 71). Below are excerpts from his song "Hard Times in New York Town."

Mister Hudson come a-sailin’ down the stream
And old Mister Minuet paid for his dream
Bought your city on a one-way track
’F I had my way I’d sell it right back
And it’s hard times in the city
Livin’ down in New York town


I’ll take all the smog in Cal-i-for-ne-ay
’N’ every bit of dust in the Oklahoma plains
’N’ the dirt in the caves of the Rocky Mountain mines
It’s all much cleaner than the New York kind
And it’s hard times in the city
Livin’ down in New York town

 
So all you newsy people, spread the news around
You c’n listen to m’ story, listen to m’ song
You c’n step on my name, you c’n try ’n’ get me beat
When I leave New York, I’ll be standin’ on my feet
And it’s hard times in the city
Livin’ down in New York town


Image is a letter, dated November the 5th 1626 and directed to the States General, Pieter Schagen describing the situation of New Amsterdam. Among other things he mentions the fact that the island of Manhattan had been purchased from the Indians for goods worth sixty Dutch guilders. Library of Congress
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Flannery O'Connor

You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you odd.