Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Dutch Fur Trade - Partial as rough draft

Certainly more than one of you can make a helpful comment ...

Dutch Fur Trade

            The Half Moon’s crew told of the rich furs they’d seen along the Hudson River. If there was no short route to Asia, there were riches in furs. Cold northern European winters made furs desirable, and they lived on the edge of a period of cold that some call a mini-ice age. Wide brimmed fur hats and capes and coats lined with fur were popular, almost a necessity. Beaver fur was especially warm. So, opening fur trade was a logical step.          
            Dutch trappers explored the forests. They met the Iroquois, the most powerful tribe south of the Great Lakes. The Iroquois journeyed from their lands through all of the lakes. Trading routes took them down the Mohawk River to the mouth of the Hudson River. The Dutch took all the furs the Iroquois trapped; they in turn received items they wanted, especially guns and liquor, but also kettles, cloth, beads, and blankets. When the animal population decreased, the Iroquois obtained furs from tribes farther west.
            The Dutch didn’t try to convert the natives to Christianity, and unlike the French they would not marry native women. They were interested only in trade, and if that diminished they wanted the natives to leave the land. The Dutch were shrewd traders, driving hard bargains, filling their ships filled with furs. Records remain, and we know that one ship carried 7246 beaver skins, 853 otter skins, 81 mink pelts, 36 wildcat skins, and 34 muskrat skins.
            Competition for furs led to war. The Algonquin were French allies, but the French were busy fighting England. In a series of brutal wars the Iroquois, supported by the Dutch changed the nature of native civilization and power in the Great Lakes region. The wars diminished when the English drove the Dutch from North America, but more about that later.
            Dutch traders wanted somewhere to keep their furs until they could be sent to the Netherlands. They built Fort Orange where the Mohawk River flows into the Hudson River. They built another fort on Manhattan Island, where New York City is now, calling it New Amsterdam. They called the regions they controlled New Netherlands. In 1626 Pieter Minuit was sent as governor. He was a fair-minded man. Though he had absolute power, he enlisted a council of five others to help him govern and listened to the settlers.
To keep the native tribes friendly, he paid them for Manhattan Island, paying sixty Guilders worth of trade goods. Over a hundred years ago someone calculated that at about twenty-four dollars. This created a myth. In fact the sixty guilders represented considerable money. In terms of purchasing power today it would be close to twenty-thousand dollars, not a bad amount for a swampy island.
Settlement was slow. Trappers and traders didn’t want to settle and farm. They wanted to wander native lands and trade. Few Dutch wanted to travel to the wild lands of North America. They were comfortable in their cities and on their farms. To increase settlement a wealthy settler who brought fifty families with him could have sixteen miles of riverbank land. In return for the land he had to provide each family with a house, barn, tools and cattle. The land remained the property of the wealthy settler whom the Dutch called a patroon. The settlers could use the land, but they had many kinds of service they had to perform. This system failed because people did not want to work hard on land they did not own. Later a Dutch settler could own his own land.

Illustration: Fort Orange

Life in New Netherlands

            New Amsterdam had a small log fort. A palisade surrounded the fort to protect it from native attacks. (The Dutch called Native Americans “wild men.”) The fort had a stone storehouse for furs. They built a two story building. The top floor was used as a church and the bottom floor as a flour mill. The main street was called Broad Street. It still exists as Broadway in New York City, thought it looks nothing as it did in the sixteen hundreds. Women washed clothes in a stream where Maiden Lane is now. The soldiers practiced on a large grassy area. Further away from the fort were small farms, dangerous places to live because of attacks my Native Americans. In contrast to Spanish settlements, houses were neat and orderly. Because of dangers from fire and native attacks they had a night watch and an officer who inspected chimneys to reduce the chance of fire.

1 comment:

  1. In the third paragraph: "filling their ships filled with furs." is too filled.

    Last paragraph: "because of attacks my Native Americans." Change my to by.

    I enjoyed this section. There is lots of detail and I think it will hold the kid's attention even without the cool icky stuff.