Going Dutch: A Visit to New Netherland

Petrus Stuyvesant 


Petrus Stuyvesant was the seventh and final Director-General of New Netherland

The town is coming alive. Men and women hurry by. You hear a strange tapping noise. A man with a wooden leg is stomping his way toward the fort, leading his horse. The silver studs  up and down the wooden leg flash in the sunlight. Your teacher told the class about Petrus Stuyvesant, the director of New Netherland. And here he is. People step back as he passes. Suddenly, Stuyvesant lets out a roar and points to the body of a dead skunk in the street. You smell only a small trace of its odor, so it's been there awhile. A man runs over and drags the carcass away. "No one will be allowed to throw rubbish into the streets or into the canal!" the director yells to the crowd. "They will pay a fine!"

Stuyvesant must be trying to keep the streets clean. Good luck with that. You jab the toe of your sneaker into the packed soil and dredge up animal bones, clay marbles, broken dishes—the rubbish people throw into the streets.

The director reaches the fort and lets out another bellow of rage. He points to hogs rooting in the logs of the fort and then to more roaming and digging up the street. "Owners of hogs will put a ring through the noses of hogs," he yells.

You guess that's to keep them from uprooting everything. But the poor pigs!

After Stuyvesant disappears into the fort, everyone continues on his way. You don't see many American Indians, but there are several African-Americans. Again, there's a jumble of languages. Your ear can't sort them all out.

You cautiously approach a large house. The door is divided into upper and lower halves. The top part is swung open. What is one of these like inside? You peek, see no one, and boldly stick your head in. The room has a cabinet with blue and white plates standing on the shelves. There's a bed, too, but it sits in a narrow short closet by the fireplace. The mattress is thick and soft-looking, probably stuffed with goose feathers. The plank floor is scrubbed but there's no carpet. On the other side of this fancy room is the kitchen. A woman strides across the opening to that, and you duck away. 


Artifact from a New Amsterdam Kitchen

Suddenly, New Amsterdam seems to spin around you. You are tired. Maybe it's time to go home. But there's still more of New Netherland. You should go to what someday will be called New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware. You stand thinking about that when you see your old toothless friend. You call him and ask about those areas. He tells you there's a town like Beverwijck that Stuyvesant started in Delaware; it’s called New Amstel. There are forts in New Jersey and a fort called Fort Casimir in Delaware. Houses and large farms like the ones you've already seen are all through the rest of New Netherland.

You thank him and decide not to go. You've learned a lot and have enjoyed being with the Dutch settlers. Getting a good grade is still important, but not compared to what you've experienced here. You're not so sure about the school, but their houses, their businesses, how they take care of the poor, and their donuts—those are all great. But at the same time, there are dirty streets, bad breath, smelly bodies, and teachers with whips. Even worse, there’s slavery. Time to go home.

How? You wrap your arms tight across your body as your heart races. What if you have to stay here forever without your friends and family? Dark spots dance before your eyes as dizziness grips you harder.

Then you hear giggles. You're sitting in your own seat back at school, and your teacher is looking down at you. You stare at her in confusion. She asks you where you've been. You look up with a bright smile, and you start talking about the fascinating Dutch of New Netherland—and hopefully earning a high mark.


1. Do you think Petrus Stuyvesant’s rules were necessary? Why or why not?

2. Do you think this trip back in time will help the student get a good grade? Why or why not?

3. How did this trip to New Netherland change the student’s thinking about colonial history? Do you think assumptions about (or prior knowledge of) New Netherland helped or hindered the student’s understanding? Explain.

About the New Netherland Institute

For over three decades, NNI has helped cast light on America's Dutch roots. In 2010, it partnered with the New York State Office of Cultural Education to establish the New Netherland Research Center, with matching funds from the State of the Netherlands. NNI is registered as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Contributions are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law. More

The New Netherland Research Center

Housed in the New York State Library, the NNRC offers students, educators, scholars and researchers a vast collection of early documents and reference works on America's Dutch era. More


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