July 26, 1788 – New York Joins the Union as the 11th State

In the 1520s, Giovanni da Verrazzano was sent by King Francis I of France across the Atlantic Ocean to look for a route to the Pacific. Verrazzano made landfall near North Carolina, and headed north to explore. He eventually discovered New York Harbor, which now has a bridge spanning it named for him. After returning to Europe, Verrazzano made two more voyages to the Americas. On the second, in 1528, he was, according to one account, killed and eaten by the natives of one of the Lower Antilles.

Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in New York City

In 1609, two years after English settlers established the colony of Jamestown in Virginia, the Dutch East India Company hired English sailor Henry Hudson to find a northeast passage to India. After unsuccessfully searching for a route above Norway, Hudson turned his ship west and landed in New York.

In 1621, the Dutch West India Company was founded for settling the area at the mouth of the now-designated Hudson River, in a colony called New Netherland. In May 1624, the first settlers arrived in New Netherland to take legal possession of the territory. One of the colonists, Peter Minuit, bought Manhattan for the equivalent of $24. The Dutch had already established a town called New Amsterdam at the southern end of the island, but Minuit’s trade of trinkets sealed the deal for all of Manhattan.

Peter Minuit

Peter Minuit

New Amsterdam was known as a pretty wild trading post, rife with smuggling and tax evasion. In 1647, the Dutch West India Company sent Peter Stuyvesant to crack down on the town. In the seventeen years of his administration, he got a school, post office, hospital, and prison built, and had a barricade erected again the Indians and the British on the site of what is now Wall Street, giving the avenue its current name.

As Mark Kurlansky reported in his book The Big Oyster: History on the Half Shell (Ballantine Books, 2006), when the Dutch arrived in Mahattan, there were so many oysters that the islands we now call Ellis and Liberty were named Little Oyster Island and Great Oyster Island by the Dutch, who might have been sitting on half the world’s supply. (Unfortunately, the oysters were overharvested and the waters became polluted by more settlers. By the early 19th century, the most prolific oyster beds around Manhattan and Staten Island were nearly depleted.)

In 1664, the first year of the sea war between England and Holland, Stuyvesant was forced to surrender the town to the British. The British divided the New Netherland territory into the colonies of New York and New Jersey, and renamed New Amsterdam to New York City in honor of England’s Duke of York.

Although the Dutch briefly recaptured New York in 1673 and renamed it New Orange, they had to cede the territory once again pursuant to the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of Westminster in 1674, and the name reverted to New York. By 1690, New York was the third-largest town in North America (with a population of just under 4,000).

New York City was controlled by the British until the American Revolution. Nevertheless, in 1765 New York City hosted the first Colonial Congress, a conference called to discuss the King of England’s Stamp Act. After serving as a colony of Great Britain for over a century, in 1776 New York declared its independence on July 9, becoming one of the original 13 states of the Federal Union. (Members of the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4.) During the American Revolutionary War, George Washington went to New York to protect the city and its valuable harbor but lost the city in September 1776 after the arrival of more than 100 British warships. The war raged on for seven years with New York as the primary British garrison.

British-Hessian troops under the command of General Howe parading through New York as they took over the city during the American War of Independence. (Credit: MPI/Getty Images)

The Americans gradually wore down the British. On November 25, 1783, the last British troops evacuated New York City. After they departed, General George Washington entered the city in triumph to the cheers of New Yorkers.

New York ratified the U.S. Constitution on this day in history, July 26, 1778, becoming the eleventh state. New York City served as the capital of the United States for eighteen months in the period 1789-1790. In 1789, it was the site of George Washington’s inauguration as the first U.S. President.

By 1790, the population had grown to 33,000. New York City’s population as of 2010 was tallied at 8,175,133. It now consists of five boroughs – four besides Manhattan – and is the largest city in the United States.


About 1 in every 38 people living in the United States resides in New York City. (The estimated population as of July 2021 was 8,467,513.) Foreign-born persons make up approximately 37% of that number. Over 200 languages are spoken in New York City.

You can find out the three most common languages spoken in every New York city neighborhood here.

New York City has more people than 40 of the 50 U.S. states. New York state as a whole has almost 20 million residents.

The state of New York has given the country so many things that it would be impossible to list them all. But they range from “Uncle Sam” – the personification of the government or people of the U.S. – to the song “Yankee Doodle,” to – most importantly – the first pizzeria in the United States.

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