The first European to discover the Manhattan peninsula was the Italian Giovanni da Verrazzano, who worked for France, in 1524. He did however not opt to explore the lands he found. This was only done in 1609 when Henry Hudson, travelling on behalf of the Dutch East India Company landed at America’s Northern Atlantic Coast. He realized Manhattan’s good location and spread the news back at home, resulting in the first Dutch settlers arriving in the New World in 1613. Their Governor Peter Minnewit bought the peninsula from the Manna Hatta Indians living there in 1626, reportedly by handing them some pearls and other objects of little value. The settlement of Nieuw Amsterdam was founded and gained in size considerably under Minnewit’s successor Peter Stuyvesant.
Soon, the British started to show some interest in the quickly growing settlement and finally conquered it in 1664. Ten years later, they put it under their administration and renamed it New York. The town remained under this leadership up until the Revolutionary War, during which the American troops attempted to conquer New York, but at first suffered a loss in the Battle of Long Island. It was not before the end of the war that New York came under the American flag and even became the country’s first capital. In 1789, George Washington was sworn into office as America’s first President here.
In the following years the city grew fast and consistenly, in population as well as in importance. Already as early as 1820, New York was the country’s largest cities with some 150,000 inhabitants and after that, population numbers virtually exploded when more and more immigration waves from all of Europe, and later from other parts of the world as well, arrived in the port of New York. Between 1894 and 1954 alone, more than 17 million people came, landing on Ellis Island first. Here there was the immigration checkpoint and many of those who arrived were quickly sent on the long way back home, for example when illnesses were detected. In the city itself, the newly arrived quickly gathered in ethnically stamped quarters such as Little Italy, Chinatown and others.
New York City became the melting pot, in which people from all over the world lived together. In 1898, there already were 3.5 million inhabitants, in 1913, that number grew to more than 5 million. However, the space in Manhattan, which had quickly grown to be the economical center, was very limited. It was for this reason that people began constructing huge buildings, the now-iconic skyscrapers. At the beginning of the 20th century the Empire State Building, the Woolworth Building and the Chrysler Building were erected. At the end of the 20th century, more followed, including the World Trade Center in 1970 which became the world’s tallest building for a time. Meanwhile, New York City made global headlines repeatedly, for example with the total power blackout in 1965, with the near-bankruptcy of the city in 1970 (with the famous New York Post headline after President Ford had refused a bailout of the city by the government: Ford to City: Drop Dead) or with the Black Monday at Wall Street in 1987. Then, New York City on September 11, 2001 became the setting for a gruesome mass murder, when the World Trade Center was destroyed by commercial aircrafts. Today, the new World Trade Center has been rebuilt to be the tallest building of the city again and New York has not lost any of its fascination and global significance despite the cowardly act. This became obvious, although in a negative way in 2007 / 2008, when the global financial and economic crisis started at Wall Street.