Date: Fri 09-Jul-1999

Date: Fri 09-Jul-1999

Publication: Ant

Author: SARAH

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Opening September 24, Exhibit Will Explore $24 Deal For Manhattan

NEW YORK CITY -- The New York Historical Society will open "$24: The Legendary

Deal for Manhattan," an exhibition investigating the infamous "purchase" that

follows a trail of historic prints, maps, wampum, beads and other colonial-era

items in search of the truth behind the legend.

The exhibition is sponsored by the DeWitt Stern Group, Inc, a Manhattan

insurance broker celebrating its 100th year in business. DeWitt Stern brokers

lines in property and casualty, life insurance and financial services, among


Jolyon F. Stern, president and CEO of DeWitt Stern, and the third generation

Stern to lead the company, said, "It seems fitting for DeWitt stern to sponsor

this exhibition during our centennial year - it's a show that really captures

the business spirit that made New York what it is today."

The exhibition "$24" examines how Manhattan's myth of origin developed and why

it remains part of American popular imagination more than 350 years later.

"24" is designed by May and Walkins, who produced the Historical Society's

groundbreaking "Before Central park: The Life and Death of Seneca Village."

The exhibition design suggests to visitors how settlers and native Americans

lived in Seventeenth Century New Amsterdam. Interactive stations offer a

chance to learn about the barter economy of the period.

History records that some kind of transaction took place in 1626. However, the

Dutch and Native Americans probably understood what was happening quite

differently; they had very different concepts of land ownership. It has been

suggested that the Native Americans did not believe they were giving up their

rights permanently.

There were no dollars in 1626. The Dutch apparently bartered the island for

goods estimated, in 1626, to be worth 60 guilders. Over two hundred of years

later, in 1846, historians estimated that 60 Dutch guilders equaled 24

American dollars. Even back then this seemed a fantastically low purchase


Many artists' representations of the purchase are exhibited, such as Alfred

Fredericks' "Purchase of Manhattan Island from the Indians" and Edwin Willard

Deming's "Peter Minuit Buying Manhattan Island from the Indians." Also

included are items of popular culture that refer to the $24 deal, including

the Rodgers and Hart song about Manhattan, "Give it Back to the Indians."

In additions, the exhibition features the only known document that supports

the story: a letter written by Pieter Schaghen, found in The Hague in 1839.

Also on exhibit are original Dutch maps of New Netherlands from 1656 and New

Amsterdam 1660; instructions written by the director of the Dutch West India

Company regarding Native American relations; Seventeenth Century land deeds

from other parts of the region; and various Native American and Dutch

artifacts, books, manuscripts, prints, newspapers, drawings and paintings.

Henry Hudson's 1609 voyage into what is now known as the Hudson River set the

stage for European settlement here. The Dutch were the first to eye the

economic potential of New York. It is from records of their interactions with

Lenape Indians living on the "island Manhattes" that the story of the $24

purchase originates.

A lucrative beaver fur trade spurred the Dutch quest for land ownership. By

1626, the Dutch West India Company had many posts along the Hudson, but needed

to establish a settlement to facilitate and expand their business. Peter

Minuit, acting for the Dutch West India Company, set his sights on Manhattan

Island. The settlement became known as New Amsterdam.

The New York Historical Society, Two west 77th Street at Central Park West, is

open Tuesday to Sunday, 11 am to 5 pm. For more information, 212/873-3400.