The Marks of Van Rensselaer

"I send [this fine horse saddle] to you... and kindly request you to accept it as a first sign of gratitude for the favors bestowed upon me. I hope that it will arrive without damage. I have had it sewed in canvas with everything that belongs to it and addressed to your honor with the mark of the colony, as in the margin."

-- Kiliaen van Rensselaer to William Kieft (Director-General of New Netherland), October 8, 1641*

Although Kiliaen van Rensselaer never stepped foot on the North American continent, his influence there was substantial. A wealthy Amsterdam merchant and a founding member of the Dutch West India Company, Van Rensselaer used his clout at home to extend his influence into the colony of New Netherland through its system of patroonships. Though not as productive as Van Rensselaer expected initially, Rennseleaerwyck was ultimately successful. It became a 'manor' after the 1664 English takeover and survived the American Revolution, lasting until 1840.

Shown here are two marks: the mark of the patroonship of Rensselaerswyck (left) and Kiliaen van Rensselaer's merchant's mark. The merchant's mark, a precursor to the modern trademark, was used to identify the shipper and authenticate goods. Wooden shipping containers were stamped with a hot iron in the shape of the mark. It could also be stamped on an invoice or a bill of lading.

* Van Rensselaer Bowier Manuscripts, 578 (Available as a free e-book from Google Books)

For more on the life of Kiliaen van Rensselaer, see New Netherland Research Center Associate Director Janny Venema's book Kiliaen van Rensselaer (1586-1643): Designing a New World published by the State University of New York Press.

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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