The Dutch first arrived in America in 1609 when the Dutch East India Company vessel De Halve Maen, commanded by the English captain, Henry Hudson, laid anchor at Sandy Hook, before sailing up what is now known as the Hudson River.
In 1614 Dutch merchants established a trading post at Fort Orange. Ten years later thirty families came from Holland to establish a settlement that became known as New Netherland. The Dutch government gave exclusive trading rights to the Dutch West India Company and over the next few years other colonists arrived a large settlement was established on Manhattan Island. Peter Minuit, who became governor of New Netherland, purchased the island from Native Americans in 1626 for $24 worth of trinkets, beads and knives. The chief port on Manhattan was named New Amsterdam.
To encourage further settlement, the Dutch West India Company offered free land along the Hudson River. Families who came from Holland to establish estates in this area included the Roosevelts, the Stuyvesants and the Schuylers. Peter Stuyvesant became governor in 1646 and during his eighteen year administration, the population grew from 2,000 to 8,000. Descendants of these early settlers included three presidents of the United States: Martin Van Buren (1837-41), Theodore Roosevelt (1901-09) and Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933-45)
In 1638 the Swedish government employed Peter Minuit, to help them establish a colony at Christina in Delaware Bay. The Swedes became involved in the fur and tobacco trades and this brought them into conflict with Dutch and English settlers. In 1655 Peter Stuyvesant arrived in 1655 with a formidable armada and took the Swedish settlement by force.
In 1664 the English fleet arrived and demanded the surrender of the New Netherlands. Peter Stuyvesant wanted to fight but without the support of the other settlers, he was forced to allow the English to take control of the territory. New Amsterdam now became New York. Other name changes included Albany (Fort Orange), Kingston (Wiltwyck) and Wilmington (Fort Christina).
It was not until the 19th century that Dutch began to think again about settling in America. Taxes in Holland were high and wages low and emigration became popular with agricultural labourers. Others decided to go for religious reasons. The Dutch Reformed Church received support from the State and dissenters suffered certain discriminations.
One of those who had suffered for his religious beliefs was Albertus van Raalte. After being imprisoned for holding unauthorized church services, van Raalte decided to emigrate to America. In 1846 van Raalte and fifty of his followers settled along the Black River in western Michigan (modern Grand Rapids). Within two years there were over 4,000 people living in New Holland. Other religious figures who opposed the State Church such as Cornelius Van der Meulen, Martin Ypma and Jannes Van De Luyster also joined the New Holland community.
Henry Scholte, another religious leader, arrived in August, 1847. He obtained 18,000 acres in Marion County and over the next few years his followers established the towns of Pella and Orange City. The settlers concentrated on beet sugar, vegetables and dairy products.
By 1850 there were Dutch settlements in Roseland and South Holland in Illinois. There were several in Michigan including Groningen, Zeeland, Drenthe, Vriesland, Holland, Overisel and Graafschap. There was also a large number of Dutch living in Chicago. Most of the immigrants from Holland were members of the Dutch Christian Reformed Church. They kept strict rules about moral behaviour and the sale of intoxicating liquors was prohibited. The religious leaders also disapproved of dancing, gambling and the theatre.
Albertus van Raalte and Gerrit Van Schelven began publication of the Dutch-language newspaper, De Hollander. Von Raalte was strongly opposed to slavery and urged his followers to vote for Abraham Lincoln and the Republican Party in 1860. Many Dutch settlers joined the Union Army and fought during the Civil War.
From 1820 to 1900 over 340,000 people from Holland emigrated to the United States. After the Second World War Holland was the most-densely populated country in the world. As a result the Dutch government encouraged people to emigrate to America. Today there are approximately 8,000,000 Americans of Dutch descent in the United States. The majority live in just ten states: California, New York, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Texas, Illinois, Florida, Washington and Iowa.
An investigation carried out in 1978 revealled that since 1820 over 359,000 people emigrated to the United States from Holland. This amounted to 0.7 per cent of the total foreign immigration during this period.