Discovery and Settlement

New York was briefly (1789-90) the U.S. capital and was state capital until 1797. By 1790 it was the largest U.S. city, and the opening (1825) of the ERIE CANAL, linking New York with the GREAT LAKES, led to even greater expansion.

In 1898 a new charter was adopted, making the city Greater New York, a metropolis of five boroughs. Massive IMMIGRATION, mainly from Europe, swelled the city's population in the late 19th and early 20th cent. After World War II, many African Americans from the South, Puerto Ricans, and Latin Americans migrated to the city in search of jobs.


Giovanni da VERRAZANO may have been the first European to explore the region, and Henry HUDSON visited it, but Dutch settlements truly began the city. In 1624 the town of New Amsterdam was established on lower Manhattan; Peter MINUIT supposedly bought the island from its Native American inhabitants for about $24 worth of trinkets. In 1664 the English seized the colony and renamed it; during the AMERICAN REVOLUTION they held it from 1776 to 1781.


Brooklyn was settled 1636, and chartered as part of New York City in 1898. The largest of New York's five boroughs, it has diverse industries and a waterfront handling foreign and domestic commerce. From Dutch and Walloon settlements it became the village of Brooklyn Ferry (1816) and the city of Brooklyn (1834), absorbing settlements like Flatbush and Gravesend as it grew; it became (1855) the third largest U.S. city.


Queens was largely unsettled except for small farms and rural settlements. Most of the settlement of this area has happened in the 19th and 20th centuries with an influx of immigrants looking for the American dream.


The Bronx was originally settled by Jonas Bronck in 1636. He claimed the area for his farm. The population explosion that took place in the 19th and 20th centuries was due to an influx of Italian and Irish immigrants.

Staten Island

The Island was originally discovered by 16th century Florentine explorer Giovanni Da Verrazano. In 1687 the Duke of York offered it as a prize to the winner of a sailing race. The region remained largely unsettled and rural because of its relative isolation from the rest of the city. Not until a ferry was started to the island and the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge was built has the island become accessible.

Source: Concise Columbia Encyclopedia