Today the Big Apple is known as the business center of the United States and in many respects, the world itself. As the history of New York City will show, it has almost always been at the forefront of development in the country.
The Early Settlers
Exactly how long the area has been occupied is unknown. According to the latest archaeological findings, Native Americans had lived in the area for more than 10,000 years. Long before the colonists came, the Indians had already settled there and it was the center of a thriving population.
All this changed when Giovanni di Verrazano arrived in 1524. Coming from what is now New York Bay, the explorer saw the potential of the land. As with the other parts of the New World, the land was settled by the colonists in the 1530s.
In the early history of New York City, the site was called New Amsterdam as it was settled by mostly Dutch people. In time the colonists established their business and engaged in trade with the locals. Eventually New Amsterdam became New Netherlands and eventually “New York”. Although the land generally brought prosperity, the weather also affected the people. A lot of the new settlers found it difficult to adjust to the weather.
These problems were overcome and its population grew. By the time of the Washington Presidency, the city was a major sea port. Over 30,000 people had settled in and it was becoming the center of business and trade. In terms of the arts and culture, it had become only second to Philadelphia.
The Early 19th Century
The history of New York City underwent some of its biggest expansion in the 1800s. From a population of just over 60,000 in the 1800s it exploded to over 250,000 less than 20 years.
This period is sometimes referred to as the “Gilded Age’. It was marked by the influx of Europeans, who took advantage of the business climate to establish their ventures. By the mid 1800s, several impressive mansions were being built across Fifth Avenue, which would become as iconic as the city itself.
It was also along Union Square that several structures were built to conduct business, the predecessor of the modern skyscrapers. By 1850, there were over one million people living in the metropolis. In terms of growth it was one of the fastest in the history of New York City.
The 1900s to World War II
The population growth continued in the early 1900s. Millions of Europeans had heard of the growing business opportunities there and came in droves. In 1900 there were 3 million people in the city. Three decades later it had reached over 7 million. Although the city was affected by the Great Depression, it survived and thrived. During and after World War II, the Big Apple became very prosperous.
From the 1960s to the Present
The city was not without problems. During the 60s and 70s sections of it, particularly Times Square, became synonymous with crime. During the 1980s and 1990s however, a massive cleanup drive helped reshape the image of the city.
The history of New York City serves as a microcosm of the American Dream: through hard work and determination, a person or group of people can overcome the odds. To this day, when people see the Big Apple, they see two things: hope and opportunity.