The Big Apple ( New York, New York )

The Big Apple ( New York, New York )

A Lesson by Ivy Smiley

The history of 'The city of wonders'.


The first native New Yorkers were the Lenape, an Algonquin people who hunted, fished and farmed in the area between the Delaware and Hudson rivers. Europeans began to explore the region at the beginning of the 16th century–among the first was Giovanni da Verrazzano, an Italian who sailed up and down the Atlantic coast in search of a route to Asia–but none settled there until 1624. That year, the Dutch West India Company sent some 30 families to live and work in a tiny settlement on “Nutten Island” (today’s Governors Island) that they called New Amsterdam. In 1626, the settlement’s governor general, Peter Minuit, purchased the much larger Manhattan Island from the natives for 60 guilders in trade goods such as tools, farming equipment, cloth and wampum (shell beads). Fewer than 300 people lived in New Amsterdam when the settlement moved to Manhattan. But it grew quickly, and in 1760 the city (now called New York City; population 18,000) surpassed Boston to become the second-largest city in the American colonies. Fifty years later, with a population 202,589, it became the largest city in the Western hemisphere. Today, more than 8 million people live in the city’s five boroughs.

In 1664, the British seized New Amsterdam from the Dutch and gave it a new name: New York City. For the next century, the population of New York City grew larger and more diverse: It included immigrants from the Netherlands, England, France and Germany; indentured servants; and African slaves.During the 1760s and 1770s, the city was a center of anti-British activity–for instance, after the British Parliament passed the Stamp Act in 1765, New Yorkers closed their businesses in protest and burned the royal governor in effigy. However, the city was also strategically important, and the British tried to seize it almost as soon as the Revolutionary War began. In August 1776, despite the best efforts of George Washington’s Continental Army in Brooklyn and Harlem Heights, New York City fell to the British. It served as a British military base until 1783.

The city recovered quickly from the war, and by 1810 it was one of the nation’s most important ports. It played a particularly significant role in the cotton economy: Southern planters sent their crop to the East River docks, where it was shipped to the mills of Manchester and other English industrial cities. Then, textile manufacturers shipped their finished goods back to New York.

But there was no easy way to carry goods back and forth from the growing agricultural hinterlands to the north and west until 1817, when work began on a 363-mile canal from the Hudson River to Lake Erie. The Erie Canal was completed in 1825. At last, New York City was the trading capital of the nation.

As the city grew, it made other infrastructural improvements. In 1811, the “Commissioner’s Plan” established an orderly grid of streets and avenues for the undeveloped parts of Manhattan north of Houston Street. In 1837, construction began on the Croton Aqueduct, which provided clean water for the city’s growing population. Eight years after that, the city established its first municipal agency: the New York City Police Department.

Meanwhile, increasing number of immigrants, first from Germany and Ireland during the 1840s and 50s and then from Southern and Eastern Europe, changed the face of the city. They settled in distinct ethnic neighborhoods, started businesses, joined trade unions and political organizations and built churches and social clubs. For example, the predominantly Irish-American Democratic club known as Tammany Hallbecame the city’s most powerful political machine by trading favors such as jobs, services and other kinds of aid for votes.

At the turn of the 20th century, New York City became the city we know today. In 1895, residents of Queens, the Bronx, Staten Island and Brooklyn–all independent cities at that time–voted to “consolidate” with Manhattan to form a five-borough “Greater New York.” As a result, on December 31, 1897, New York City had an area of 60 square miles and a population of a little more than 2 million people; on January 1, 1898, when the consolidation plan took effect, New York City had an area of 360 square miles and a population of about 3,350,000 people.

The 20th century was an era of great struggle for American cities, and New York was no exception. The construction of interstate highways and suburbs after World War II encouraged affluent people to leave the city, which combined with deindustrialization and other economic changes to lower the tax base and diminish public services. This, in turn, led to more out-migration and “white flight.” However, the Hart-Cellar Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 made it possible for immigrants from Asia, Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America to come to the United States. Many of these newcomers settled in New York City, revitalizing many neighborhoods.

On September 11, 2001, New York City suffered the deadliest terrorist attack in the history of the United States when a group of terrorists crashed two hijacked jets into the city’s tallest buildings: the twin towers of the World Trade Center. The buildings were destroyed and nearly 3,000 people were killed. In the wake of the disaster, the city remained a major financial capital and tourist magnet, with over 40 million tourists visiting the city each year.

Today, more than 8 million New Yorkers live in the five boroughs–more than one-third of whom were born outside the United States. Thanks to the city’s diversity and vibrant intellectual life, it remains the cultural capital of the United States.

Interesting facts about New York

New York City is one of the largest cities in the world with rich culture and history. This can also make New York very strange at times.  Below are 41 random facts about that Big Apple that will blow your mind.

1. Madison Square Park, Washington Square Park, Union Square Park, and Bryant Park used to be cemeteries.

sqpark[Photo via]

2. There are 20,000 bodies buried in Washington Square Park alone.

3. It can cost over $289,000 for a one-year hot dog stand permit in Central Park.

4. The city of New York will pay for a one-way plane ticket for any homeless person if they have a guaranteed place to stay.

5. On Nov. 28, 2012, not a single murder, shooting, stabbing, or other incident of violent crime in NYC was reported for an entire day. The first time in basically ever.

6. In New York City there are more than 26,000 people living in each square mile.

7. It takes 75,000 trees to print a Sunday edition of the New York Times.

8. New York City has more people than 39 of the 50 states in the U.S.

9. There is a birth in New York City every 4.4 minutes.

10. There is a death in New York City every 9.1 minutes.

11. The Federal Reserve Bank on New York's Wall Street contains vaults that are located 80 feet beneath the bank and hold about 25 percent of the world's gold bullion.

goldbars_thumb[Photo via]

12. There’s a man who mines sidewalk cracks for gold. He can make over $600 a week.

13. About 1 in every 38 people living in the United States resides in New York City.

14. The borough of Brooklyn on its own would be the fourth largest city in the United States. Queens would also rank fourth nationally.

15. New York City has the largest Chinese population of any city outside of Asia.

16. New York has the largest Puerto Rican population of any city in the world.

17. More than 47 percent of New York City's residents over the age of 5 speak another language other than English at home.

18. New York's Central Park is larger than the principality of Monaco.

19. Women may go topless in public, providing it is not being used as a business.

20. Manhattan's daytime population swells to 3.94 million, with commuters adding a net 1.34 million people.

21. New York City served as the capital of the United States in the 1780s before it was moved to Philadelphia and then Washington D.C.

22. There was one homicide on 9/11, and it remains unsolved.

23. Albert Einstein’s eyeballs are stored in a safe deposit box in the city.

24. New York City's Chinatown is the largest Chinese enclave in the Western Hemisphere.

25. Phantom of the Opera is currently the longest running show in Broadway history, with over 9100 performances.

26. New York City subway musicians actually go through a rigorous selection process. Many of the musicians have even performed at famous venues such as Carnegie Hall before moving to the subways.

subwayband[Photo via]

27. Central Park was the first public landscaped park in all of the United States.

28. The Jewish population in NYC is the largest in the world outside of Israel.

29. New York City’s 520-mile coastline is longer than those of Miami, Boston, Los Angeles, and San Francisco combined.

30. Cleopatra’s Needle, a 3,000-year-old Egyptian ruin, can actually be found in New York’s Central Park. In 1879 it was given to the city as a gift by the Khedive of Egypt. The 220-ton, 66-foot-high monument took a decade to be fully transported.

31. Sixty percent of cigarettes sold in NYC are illegally smuggled from other states.

32. There are tiny shrimp called copepods in NYC’s drinking water.

33. 100 million Chinese food cartons are used annually in New York City.

34. There is a secret train platform in the Waldorf Astoria hotel.

35. From 1904 to 1948 there was an 18th Street station on the 4/5/6 line. It’s abandoned now, but you can still see it on local 6 trains.


36. Annual location shoots on the streets of New York number 40,000 — including commercials, feature films, television shows and series, music videos and documentaries.

37. The Big Apple is a term coined by musicians meaning to play the big time.

38. New York City taxi cabs are yellow because according to car salesman John Hertz (1907), yellow is the easiest color to spot at a distance.

39. On a clear day, the Empire State Building offers 80 miles of visibility, which encompasses parts of New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

40. The Manhattan grid pattern produces an effect known as “Manhattanhenge” (like Stonehenge) as, on two days – around May 28th and around July 12th – sunset is directly aligned with the street grid pattern.

This means the sun can be seen setting exactly over the centerline of every Manhattan street. A similar effect occurs during sunrise on two winter days, understandably less popular.

41. The scary nitrogen gas tanks you see on the corners of streets are used to keep underground telephone wires dry.

Thanks for reading

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Added on June 12, 2014
Last Updated on June 12, 2014

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Ivy Smiley
Ivy Smiley

Rossville, GA

I'm a writer/novelist in fiction. I'm not normally one to write fan-fiction. I'm one to write about worlds and people who live in situations they're in. It's just my style of writing. Unique is one wa..