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The Dutch Influence in Colonial America.

Updated on February 19, 2018
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This veteran writer has been on HubPages for a decade and has created over 100 original pieces.

The Dutch in the Americas.

America has welcomed many immigrants through its history, the American Dream has encouraged diverse peoples to come and make a better life for themselves. Those immigrants of Dutch heritage have played an important part in the development of the United States of America. The colonial possessions of the Dutch in the Americas were quite minimal when compared to other colonial powers. The main Dutch possessions in the Americas amounted to Suriname, Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao.

Surprisingly a few major settlements in the USA actually began as Dutch holdings in the 17th and 18th centuries. It would seem that history has taken for granted and overlooked the influence of those Dutch settlers and pioneers that have helped shaped the continent for the better.

Since the first Dutch colonies were formed in the 17th century a lot of Anglicization of their original names occurred. This was because English was effectively the main language of the North Americas. Because of a shared Germanic heritage, the Dutch and English have a similar linguistic ancestry, with the former having a less streamlined vocabulary. English language won out and many place names lost their original settlers direct input purely because of ease of use. The Dutch language is much more wordy and for the sake of speed, crisp and to the point English variants were soon adapted by the many.

Dutch Colonial Ventures.

In 1613, the first Dutch settlers arrived and founded a great number of villages along the Atlantic coast. They also founded a small town to administer the new colonies that they would call "New Amsterdam". This settlement was also on the eastern coast of the North Americas and was located at a strategic point of the area which gave great access to the trade routes home. This small town would eventually grow and parts of the old Dutch settlement would become the City of New York.

The Dutch came over to the Americas to start a new life and like other immigrants, to find a fresh challenge. The new colonists used their knowledge of construction to shape this new land and make good arable farmland. Americans with Dutch ancestry make up some 5,000,000 citizens according to the last American census. The Dutch Americans are usually located in the area around the Hudson River Basin and Lake Michigan. There are also a lot of Dutch descendants in the main farming areas of the USA. States of the Union such as Ohio, Utah, Idaho, Nebraska, Iowa and Pennsylvania attracted a lot of second and third generation Dutch to the virgin farm lands of the fertile interior.

A street in Harlem, NYC.
A street in Harlem, NYC.

Dutch Place Names in the USA.

The influence of the Dutch people is still evident in the name of one of the USA's older states. Rhode Island comes from the Dutch description of the state's red clay. In the city and state of New York, the Dutch gave names to famous Islands such as Coney Island, this name translates to Rabbit Island. They also gave names to highly populated areas of New York City, Harlem has Dutch roots as does Brooklyn.

Did you know that Broadway and Wall Street have Dutch origins?

Wall Street indicates the location of the former wall that surrounded the original Dutch settlement. And Broadway which is the heart of American theatre comes from the Dutch settlements "Brege Weg" Broadway is the English equivalent.

In New York state you will see place names such as Piermont, Orangeburg, Blauvelt and Haverstraw. So much of the initial Dutch influence is still there to this present day. In fact, it goes unnoticed in plain sight!

Famous Americans with Dutch Roots

  • Theodore Roosevelt
  • R. Romjin ( Mystique in X-Men Films )
  • Franklin Roosevelt
  • Dick van Dyke
  • Walter Kronkite

An American President.

President Roosevelt, saw the United States through most of the Second World War.
President Roosevelt, saw the United States through most of the Second World War. | Source

The Dutch at the Time of the War of American Independence.

The Dutch colonists helped trade arms with the Revolutionaries in the American Civil War, and the people of the Netherlands were one of the first nations to actively recognise the United States of America after its declaration of independence. The Dutch have given numerous words to the America way of life, words such as Boss and Cookie have a Dutch origin. If Great Britain did not swap and annex the Dutch's colonial possessions in North America, I wonder how different the United States of America would have turned out.

The Dutch would later try and increase their possessions in the Caribbean Islands as a way to trade with the fledgling United States. In this time period of piracy and buried treasure. The Dutch and the British became more cordial due to a shared royal bloodline. The Dutch went on to become an empire known more for commerce than open warfare and annexation.

The Dutch saw more opportunity in the Pacific Islands and focused their attention on the south eastern edge of Asia. Java became their main source of colonial income and other foreign powers soon annexed their American interests.

Colonial Dutch Flag
Colonial Dutch Flag

The Dutch in the USA

Harlem, New York, NY, USA

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Broadway :
Broadway, New York, NY, USA

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Brooklyn, NY, USA

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Wall Street:
Wall St, New York, NY, USA

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Did you know that the Dutch were very active in the formation of the USA?

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© 2010 Andrew Stewart


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    • Unifiniti profile image


      6 years ago

      Dutch New Amsterdam wasn't that rich as the slave colony Suriname. That's probably why they switched it.

    • Asp52 profile imageAUTHOR

      Andrew Stewart 

      9 years ago from England

      Thank you for your kind comments,i have just learnt that the Dutch traded New Amsterdam for the English colony of Surninam. It was more profitable at the time for them. Strange how things work out.

    • Lalulinho profile image


      9 years ago

      Great Hub--I love this kind of history as well. I think The Bronx was named after the Dutchman who owned land to the north of Manhattan... Also interesting how far the Dutch got around the world--South Africa (later I guess), Brazil (they tried to invade, anyway--I went on a tour once near Rio describing their attempts to take Brazil from the Portuguese), Indonesia, etc., etc. Keep the historical Hubs coming!

    • Asp52 profile imageAUTHOR

      Andrew Stewart 

      9 years ago from England

      Glad that you enjoyed the hub, Dutch was still spoken in some parts of the States as first language until 1910 and a few church services were conducted in Dutch up until the 1920's.

    • Randy Godwin profile image

      Randy Godwin 

      9 years ago from Southern Georgia

      I love the history of the early immigrants who helped found this country. Those settlers from the many different countries help make America's culture as diverse and wonderful as it is! Enjoyed!


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