Manhattan, NY

Did the Dutch Really Buy Manhattan for $24?

New York Culture

You probably heard the story of how the island of Manhattan was bought for a merge amount of $24 back in the 17th century. It's scandalous, it's crazy, and it's hard to believe. Yet, it's the legend many have been perpetuating for centuries - without exaggeration. But is this really what happened?

What Does the History Say?

According to the legend, the Dutch settlers representing the West India Trading Company sailed into Manhattan in 1624. The island was occupied by Native Americans back then, and the Dutch stroke a deal to purchase the island for 60 guilders - the equivalent of $24 back then. In today's money, accounting for inflation, it's barely over $1,000. The Dutch then established the colony of New Amsterdam and proceeded to lose Manhattan to the English before signing a peace treaty.

Is There Any Proof?

The only proof available is the letter written by Peter Schaghen, the representative of the States-General in the Assembly of the Nineteen of the West India Trading Company. It relays the purchase of the island of Manhattan for 60 guilders ($24), which will now become the center of the Dutch people on the new land.

But Is This True?

The native people are being portrayed as naive and stupid in this story. It's not just sad but quite offensive. The Native American tribe in question was the Lenape tribe, which was involved in trade and known for trading skills.

Could a tribe that made a living through trade sell their land for $24? I mean... It's not impossible but doesn't sound too convincing. So far, the only piece of proof the $24-story is real is the letter above. And while it can certainly end up being the truth, it's hard to believe in.

Additional resources:

The True Native New Yorkers Can Never Truly Reclaim Their Homeland

Lenape-Delaware Tribe

How New York Was Named

A Dutch Massacre of Our Lenape Ancestors on Manhattan

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