Flags of the West India Company

"Be it known, that we knowing the prosperity of these countries, and the welfare of their inhabitants depends principally on navigation and trade, which in all former times by the said Countries were carried on happily, and with a great blessing to all countries and kingdoms."

- From the Charter of Privileges and Exemptions of the Dutch West India Company. June 3, 1621

Chartered by the States General in 1621 as a trading company with monopoly privileges, the Dutch West India Company played a crucial role in the Dutch colonization of the Americas. Its area of operations extended from the west coast of Africa westward across the Atlantic and Pacific to the eastern-most reaches of the Indonesian archipelago. New Netherland was one of its many interests, which included the gold coast of Africa, Brazil with its wealth of sugar and dyewood, and the salt-rich Caribbean islands.

Beginning around 1622 and for forty-two years thereafter, the flag of the Dutch West India Company served as the symbol of the dominant power in and around present-day New York, with some 100 ships at sea by the 1630s. The initials G.W.C. stood for the Dutch Geoctroyeerde Westindische Compagnie (Chartered West India Company). Initially orange, the flag's top stripe changed to red around 1650, reflecting the same change in the national flag of Holland. The color change occurred gradually and not by official decree. There are several theories for the change: from the stability of the orange dye to its visibility on the sea.

The original orange was the inspiration for the flags of Albany and New York City.

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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