The first European explorer who saw Manhattan Island was Giovanni da Verrazano, an Italian merchant who was in the service of the French king, Francis I. The date was April, 1524. Today a bridge which carries his name, the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, is one of the city's most impressive sights. It is the longest suspension bridge in the world.

Other Europeans followed Verrazano, most notably Henry Hudson, an Englishman employed by the Dutch East India Company. The mighty Hudson River is named after the navigator who set foot on these shores in 1609.

Even in the days when America was known as the New World, it was a country with a reputation for its spirit of enterprise and the ability of its people to make a good deal. In 1626 the Dutch Trade Company bought Manhattan Island from the local Indians for twenty four dollars. It was probably the most spectacular business deal of all times. (Today, $24 would not buy one square foot of office space in New York).

Here the Dutch founded their colony and gave it the name New Amsterdam.

Forty years later the English fleet under the Duke of York entered the harbour, captured the city without firing a shot and renamed it New York.

During the War of Independence it was the scene of heavy fighting. The English held it until the end of the war in 1783 when it became the first capital of the new republic — the United States of America. On April 30, 1789 George Washington, the first President of the US, stood on a balcony there and swore a solemn oath to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

The city grew very quickly. Today's New York is the greatest contrast possible to the island settled by the Dutch in 1624. In 1811 a "city plan" was adopted under which straight lines cut through the woods and fields of Manhattan, flattening its hills, burying under the surface its countless little rivers. In a sense, New York is now one of the least historic cities of the world. Practically nothing has remained of Dutch New Amsterdam.



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