New York, New York
The Dutch Buy Manhattan Island
New York City boasts one of the largest natural ports in the world, offering a safe haven for seafaring ships. It was 'discovered' by an Italian explorer, Giovanni da Verrazzano, in 1524.
The Dutch laid claim to the city in 1621, and purchased Manhattan Island from the American Indians for about $700. The Indians were not sea merchants. The Dutch named it New Amsterdam. It is now the most valuable piece of land, and the most man-made environment, in the world.
New Amsterdam was occupied by 350 families by 1660. Four years later the city was taken over by the English, and renamed New York. It was nearly destroyed by the British during the American Revolution, before becoming an American City in 1783, with a population of 25,000. Due to the devastation, Christians set up almshouses, an older version of homeless shelters, to house and feed the 20% of the citizens whose homes were ruined.
The Erie Canal
The Erie Canal opened in 1825 linking New York City with the Great Lakes. During the next 35 years the city grew faster than any city in the history of Earth. By 1835, half of all imports and exports to and from the United States passed through New York Harbor.
The Depression of 1837
The United States suffer a depression in 1837, caused by a depression in England that resulted in the price of cotton (our main export) dropping precipitously, which was followed by England and Europe cutting off the flow of capital to America that it depended upon for its rapidly expanding economy.
To top it off, the wheat crop failed, creditors foreclosed, banks failed, and the government was nearly broke. In New York City, unemployment reached 33% and those employed suffered an average of 40% in pay cuts. 200,000 people were in utterly hopeless distress of surviving the winter. Again, Christian Charity came through the save the citizenry without any assistance from the government.
America in the 19th Century had plenty of cheap land and a scarcity of labor. 1845 to 1854 saw the greatest influx of immigrants in the nation's history. 2.4 million new citizens moved here during that decade and 2/3 of them came through New York City.
By 1860, one of every eight Americans was foreign born, with Irish and Germans by far the most numerous of them. Since these immigrants arrived with little skills, they were paid far less than the native born and faced withering discrimination. But with time, these two groups produced countless American success stories, that only the opportunities for upward mobility Free Market Capitalism can provide.
Another depression hit in 1857. But the twenty years in between the two depressions were times of extreme prosperity in New York City, and America. In 1857, stockbrokers, banks, railroads, and all sorts of businesses went bankrupt; and charges of fraud flew in every direction.
On the bright side, Central Park, covering 843 acres, was planned by Frederick Law Olmstead for the enjoyment of the city's denizens, and was completed just in time for the outbreak of the American Civil War. This park was and is one of the most far-sighted ideas in the history of urban planning.
After the Civil War, New York City was the leader in manufacturing for the United States. The city's huge numbers of poor immigrants huddled in tenements were ripe pickings for government programs instituted by the notorious mayor Boss Tweed. He did a lot for the poor; but corruption, graft and theft were enormous in his political administration.
The Depression of 1873
Then came the greatest depression of the 19th Century in 1873. Reckless investment in America caused a worldwide financial panic. Within weeks thousands of businesses, banks, brokerage houses, and railroads went bankrupt. Hundreds of factories and mills closed; hundreds of thousands of people were suddenly out of work. In the city vacant storefronts were visible everywhere.
The Brooklyn Bridge was finished in 1883, not only the greatest bridge and greatest feat of engineering of its day, but a work of art. In 1886, the Statue of Liberty opened. In this same period, Wall Street became the financial center of America. The invention of the elevator, and steel-frame construction, produced an astonishing vertical boom in the city. By 1900, New York City was one of the greatest cities on earth.
New York Subway
The decade of 1900 to 1910 was the peak of immigration, this time mainly Italians and Eastern Europeans peasants—largely Catholics; but not a few Jews. The immigrants were fleeing poverty and persecution.
Ethnic neighborhoods began to spring up around the city. The "Lower East Side" of the city was the most densely populated place in the world. The spread of public schools was largely due to the desire to educate and "Americanize" immigrant children.
At the same time, a mass migration occurred inside the United States as country folk designed to leave the isolation of rural towns and farms for the bright lights of the big city.
The New York Subway was built under the city, and opened in 1904, transforming working class life as these folks could now enjoy the museums, libraries, parks, and concert venues.
In the 1910s the Bohemian culture arose in the Greenwich Village area of Manhattan, centered on literature; art; poetry; music; and subversive politics. During this same period New York became the entertainment; shopping; jewelry; and garment manufacturing center of the world. In 1913 the tallest building in the world, the Woolworth Building, celebrated its grand opening.
In 1921, the northern part of Manhattan, known as Harlem, was the largest black community in the world outside Africa, and the capital of Black America. It was a clean, airy, sunny, modern community. And it became the home of the distinctly American music known as Jazz.
The 1920s were the decade of the greatest economic boom in American history. New York was the cultural and economic center of the nation. 'Broadway' boomed as the theatre district; king of the musical play.
By 1930 New York was the most populous city on Earth, with 11 million residents. It led the world in communications, radio, newspapers, commerce, skyscrapers, sports, restaurants, amusements, and technology. It had the greatest concentration of lawyers, bankers, engineers, architects, designers, and corporations in the Western Hemisphere.
New York had become the world center of democracy, capitalism, and modernity. The Chrysler Building was completed in 1930, the tallest building in the world for 11 months. Then the Empire State Building became the top dog when it opened in 1931.
The Great Depression
The stock market crash of 1929 precipitated the Great Depression of the 1930s. Unemployment rose to 25%. This terrible time had the benefit of the city being forced to rid itself of fat in its budget, and more importantly, eliminating corruption.
New York had been transformed into the most efficiently administered city in the world by the start of World War Two. After that war ended, New York had a new wave of immigrants come to live in the city over a period of 20 years—Spanish-speakers from Latin America; and black Americans from the rural South.
The Great Decline
The city plunged into racial tension in the 1960s; witnessed 'white flight' to the suburbs; and then economic chaos brought the city to financial ruin in the 1970s. The city became too crowded, dirty, smelly, antagonistic, and violent. A huge crime wave swept through for about 20 years.
The city was saved by one Rudolph Giuliani. Giuliani inherited this mess, one of the most dangerous cities in the world then, when he was elected mayor in 1993. As mayor he cleaned up the filthy city, tremendously improved the quality of life for its citizens, and accomplished what was said to be impossible: he cut crime in half, by using a novel concept—arresting, prosecuting, and incarcerating criminals; rather than coddling them by looking the other way since it must be 'society's' fault they are that way.
He became the first Republican to win a second mayoral term since Mayor LaGuardia in 1941—interestingly enough, unquestionably the greatest previous mayor the city has had. After this dramatic improvement in the safety of its law-abiding citizens, New York experienced an unprecedented boom in tourism and remains today a fabulous place to visit.
I have visited New York on numerous occasions and it would take another Hub to show all of the wonderful delights one can partake of in the city today. I strongly recommend the Circle Line cruise around Manhattan Island; the double-decker tour buses; live music venues; art museums; and of course a Broadway show.
This is the most vibrant city in the world. For a first time visitor, it seems incredible. After a multitude of visits, one realizes there is no end to the discoveries, adventures, and experiences in this fascinating place. New York. The City.