How Did New York Get Its Name?

did-new-york-its-name Credit: Afton Almaraz/Getty Images News/Getty Images

In 1664, New York was named after the British Duke of York and Albany, brother of King Charles II and King James II. Originally, New York State was a Dutch colony named New Netherland, and New York City was New Amsterdam.

Europeans first explored New York when Henry Hudson navigated the Hudson River in 1609. By 1624, there were permanent Dutch settlers in the area, primarily fur traders looking to cash in on a lucrative business. Soon, the Dutch set up the patroonship system whereby wealthy men could establish colonies if they brought in their own settlers. Farms and towns sprang up.

However, the fur trade was a highly competitive industry. Swedes, Finns and British swarmed into the Hudson Bay region, setting up forts and colonies and trading in furs themselves. Soon, the British told the Dutch that they had prior claim to the area through their own explorer John Cabot in 1498. Fearing a British attack, the Dutch allied themselves with the French in 1662. Because the French were at war with Britain, Charles II seized this opportunity to formally claim New Netherland, annexing it and granting it to his brother James, Duke of York. The Duke sent a fleet to enforce his ownership, and the poorly manned and maintained Dutch Fort Orange and Fort Amsterdam surrendered.