Discovering New Amsterdam – 1600’s Cartography

One of the earliest maps of New Amsterdam is displayed right below this paragraph. The map displays a very basic illustration of lower Manhattan and was originally produced in 1664. The map was produced for James the Duke of York in order to lay down the first plans for the construction of a new Colony. Below the map we will examine and explore various cartographic attributes that make this map absolutely stunning. If you have any questions or comments please feel free to leave them below!

Quite an interesting early map of New Amsterdam we have displayed above! There is no doubt in my mind that this map was originally produced in 1664 as you can see a developmental and early illustration of lower Manhattan. The other aspects that overwhelmingly confirm the publication date is the spelling as well as the labellings throughout this map. Longe Isleland is obviously spelled quite different then it is today and to the left of the map you can clearly see the labeling “The Dukes Plan” “A Description of the Towne of Mannados-(Manhattan) or New Amsterdam”. Also if we look at the river on the opposite side of long island we see “Hudfrons River”, an old spelling of the Hudson River no doubt.

This map presents many clues to us about what New York City was like back in 1664. For example look at the plentiful amount of ships over in the East River. What this tells me is that many ships back in the mid 1600’s were landing and porting their ships along this area and were provided with easier access to the Atlantic ocean from side of New Amsterdam. Its even true today that more ships are in port along the East River, look at where the U.S. Naval Shipyard is… located on the East River for easy access to the Atlantic.

We can obviously see that lower Manhattan in this map is somewhat underdeveloped. From the looks of it, it seems there were only 3 avenues and mini neighborhoods scattered throughout Manhattan’s lower quarter. Beyond these locations we see sporadic illustrations possibly detailing the planning of new neighborhoods and or developing and clearing the land on the island. The lower quarter of New Amsterdam is drawn with a vertical line with 5 pointed dividers. This line on the map represents the fortifications built on the upper section of this colony. I have evidence to support this finding that this is a fortification by cross-referencing it with another map of New Amsterdam below:

Fortifactions new amsterdam numbered

Notice the 5 points in the image above, well there are also 5 points in the same location on the map above this one. So without a doubt I can tell you that they fortified this section of New Amsterdam.

Another aspect that stands out to me that are on both of these maps is the fortification located at the southern tip of lower Manhattan. This fort has been called so many different names throughout time. It has been called Fort Amsterdam, Fort George, Fort William Henry and much more. But as you can see on both maps It gave the dutch a strategic advantage to defending lower Manhattan. Not only did it provide an advantage with line of site scouting for invaders coming from the Atlantic or the Hudson, but it also contributed and gave the Dutch a strategic vantage point for their cannons to fire upon incoming ships as well a fall back location for the island as a whole. The 1st map displayed does not display the cannons in the 4 quadrants of the fort. The 2nd map displayed though overwhelmingly does.

fort amsterdam cannonsThese are just a few of the various historical aspects that we’ve explored and uncovered on these old vintage maps of New Amsterdam. Please feel free to subscribe to our blog on the right hand side! We will be continuing this exploration of History of New York City and we blog constantly. If you have any questions or comments about this post please feel free to comment below!