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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. In 1664, the British seized New Amsterdam from the Dutch and gave it a new name: New York City.
The city recovered quickly from the war, and by 1810 it was one of the nation’s most important ports. 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. 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. The 20th century was an era of great struggle for American cities, and New York was no exception. 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.
Today, more than 8 million New Yorkers live in the five boroughs–more than one-third of whom were born outside the United States.
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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.
In 1811, the “Commissioner’s Plan” established an orderly grid of streets and avenues for the undeveloped parts of Manhattan north of Houston Street.
They settled in distinct ethnic neighborhoods, started businesses, joined trade unions and political organizations and built churches and social clubs.
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. Thanks to the city’s diversity and vibrant intellectual life, it remains the cultural capital of the United States.
In 1837, construction began on the Croton Aqueduct, which provided clean water for the city’s growing population. For example, the predominantly Irish-American Democratic club known as Tammany Hall became the city’s most powerful political machine by trading favors such as jobs, services and other kinds of aid for votes.
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. 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.


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). However, the city was also strategically important, and the British tried to seize it almost as soon as the Revolutionary War began. Eight years after that, the city established its first municipal agency: the New York City Police Department.
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.
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.



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