How Was Life in Colonial New York?

Overall, life in colonial New York was prosperous, with a mix of nationalities, booming businesses and a variety of amusements and entertainment. However, there were multiple battles fought over the land, and it was often filled with hostility and violence.

When the first Dutch settlers landed at the future site of New York in May of 1623, it was a dense forest of oaks, maples, pines and chestnuts. Its location on the coast, along with waterways that lead inland, caused the city to grow quickly. By 1700, New York was a melting pot of ethnicities, including English, Dutch, French, German, Irish, Welsh, Swedish and Scottish.

Due to the rapidly increasing population, businesses grew quickly. Merchants and traders made up the populous middle class and industries, such as farming, fishing and tobacco, flourished. With a surplus of money in people’s pockets, entertainment and small luxuries were plentiful. New York became a hot spot for pirates to sell their loot, offering luxury at a cheap price.

But New York, originally called New Amsterdam, was a highly desired piece of land. King Charles of England seized Dutch ships in 1664 and won control of the colony, changing its name to New York. The Dutch won it back in 1673, only for it to be conquered again in 1674 by England. In 1776, George Washington and five regiments of soldiers marched on New York in a move towards independence.