New York City – History, Facts and Quotes

New York City history shows that Native Americans initially populated the area, but the land changed hands several times during European settlement. New York City history plays an essential role in the American Revolution and early America. New York City is the most populous city in the United States, with an estimated population of around 8.6 million people in 2016. Learn more about the history of New York City below.

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Natasha McLachlan is a writer who currently lives in Southern California. She is an alumna of California College of the Arts, where she obtained her B.A. in Writing and Literature. Her current work revolves around insurance guides and informational articles. She truly enjoys helping others learn more about everyday, practical matters through her work.

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Laura Walker graduated college with a BS in Criminal Justice with a minor in Political Science. She married her husband and began working in the family insurance business in 2005. She became a licensed agent and wrote P&C business focusing on personal lines insurance for 10 years. Laura serviced existing business and wrote new business. She now uses her insurance background to help educate...

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Reviewed by Laura Walker
Former Licensed Agent

UPDATED: Nov 21, 2020

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New York City is one of the most famous cities in the world, and with good reason. It’s a massive city and home to international fashion, commerce, theater, music, film, literature, and more. New York is one of the top tourist destinations in the world and is filled with creative people and jobs. It also has a long and interesting history in playing a major role in early American history. New York City is famous for its architecture as well as for landmarks such as the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty. It was the first sight of America many immigrants had when passing through Ellis Island into the United States. New York is a fascinating, busy, and interesting place!

New York City Facts

New York City is the most populous city in the United States, with an estimated 2016 population of around 8.6 million people. The population density is also the highest of any major city, with around 27,000 people per square mile, and the population has increased by over 1 million since 1990. The city is very diverse as well, with over 200 languages being spoken at home in New York City. New York has long been a center of innovation and diversity. In fact, both the 1939 and 1964 World’s Fairs were held in New York City.

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History of New York

New York City has a long and interesting history. Originally populated by Native Americans, the land changed hands several times during European settlement and came to play an important role in the American Revolution and early America as well as the centuries that followed. Even before human habitation, New York was populated by animals. In fact, the oldest animal fossils in the Eastern United States have been found in New York!

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Early Settlement

When Europeans arrived in New York, Native American tribes, such as the Delaware and the Lenape, were already inhabiting the area. Although an Italian explorer named Giovanni de Verrazano was most likely the first European to enter New York’s harbor, the Dutch were the first Europeans to build a settlement, called New Amsterdam, near what is today New York City. In 1664, however, the British conquered New Amsterdam and renamed it New York after James Stuart (later James II), Duke of York. Although it returned to Dutch rule briefly in 1673, by 1674 it was firmly in the hands of the British Empire.

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Revolutionary Period

New York City prospered between its acquisition by the British and the American Revolution. However, the colony also suffered under British taxes, and much action leading up to the Revolution occurred in New York, already a populous city and center of activity in colonial America. During the Revolution, New York City became a key focal point for both sides. The British wanted the city as a base to fight the Continental Army, and the Revolutionary Army wanted to keep the city to prevent the British from having control over the port. The British did capture the city and New York City remained in British control until the end of the war in 1783.

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Early American Period

After the American Revolution, New York City was turned over to the Americans in 1783. The early American Congress met in New York City under the Articles of Confederation from 1789 to 1790, and was the first national capital of the new government, post-Revolution, before Washington, DC became the American capital. New York continued to grow rapidly, surpassing Philadelphia as the largest US city, and becoming a center of national and international commerce even in its early days as a part of the new nation.

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Ellis Island

From almost its inception, New York City attracted immigrants, but in the nineteenth century, the city became a center of immigration to the United States. Huge international issues, like the Irish Potato Famine, played a role in these immigration surges. Ellis Island was the first stop for many immigrants coming into the US. The island had been a small island used for harvesting oysters, for hanging pirates, and as the site of a fort, Fort Gibson, before it was turned into an immigration station. When Ellis Island officially opened in 1892, it began processing huge numbers of immigrants. Over the next 62 years, more than 12 million immigrants came through Ellis Island!

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Early 20th Century

In the early 20th century, New York continued to be a center of commerce, news, and immigration. Immigration continued in huge numbers, and still continues today. After the Civil War, the area of Harlem became a cultural center for African American music, film, theater, dance, poetry, and more, resulting in the Harlem Renaissance. Huge talent, like Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston, came out of the exciting movement.

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Modern New York

New York City today is famous for a variety of reasons including Wall Street, New York Fashion Week, and more, but also for the huge impact it has had on American and international culture. Television shows like Friends, Seinfeld, and How I Met Your Mother used the city as almost another character, and movies like When Harry Met Sally, Annie Hall, and many others could not have been set anywhere else.

New York City has also found itself at the center of tragedy. On September 11th, 2001, terrorists flew two planes in the World Trade Center, resulting in a huge loss of life. The eyes of the world centered on New York City. However, the city has rebuilt and remained resilient in the face of tragedy.

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Quotes About New York City

New York City is one of the most talked about cities in the world. Frank Sinatra’s song lyrics “Theme from New York, New York” proclaims that “If I can make it here, I can make it anywhere!” Great literature also contains references to New York. In the quote, “The city seen from the Queensboro Bridge is always the city seen for the first time, in its first wild promise of all the mystery and the beauty in the world,” F. Scott Fitzgerald writes of the city in The Great Gatsby. New York City is a place oft quoted and mentioned in cultural works.

Famous Building, Structures, and Landmarks

New York City is home to many famous landmarks. Central Park, for example, is one of the largest public parks in the world. The Empire State Building has been featured in movies from King Kong to Sleepless in Seattle, and the New York Subway system has been a model for transportation systems across the world.

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Additional Resources

New York City is a fascinating place, and whether to live or visit, it’s definitely a place to go at least once in your life! To help you learn more, here are some resources you can use to learn more about this amazing city!

The Official Website of the City of New York is a great resource to start with: NYC resources.

The Museum of the City of New York gets into some of the stories and history surrounding New York: Stories.
 

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