American Colonial History

Bankrupt! The New York County Supreme Court Insolvency Assignments Records

Shortly after I began working as an archivist at the Municipal Archives in 2017, I was asked to write a finding aid for the “insolvency assignment” records. My first thought was… what’s an insolvency assignment? I had no idea. But I did notice that the date span of the records extended back to the late 18th century, so that was promising. With a little research I learned that an insolvency assignment was a legal process during which debtors and/or their creditors petitioned the New York State Supreme Court to appoint an assignee to manage the sale of the debtor’s property to pay off debts owed to his or her creditors.

The Dutch & the English Part 5: The Return of the Dutch and What Became of the Wall

The popular narrative of New Amsterdam often concludes this way: In 1664, the English arrived and forever after it was New York. The English won, the Dutch lost, end of story. But once again, the history is more complicated...

The Dutch & the English Part 4: Invasion?

In late August 1664 the Burgomasters & Schepens (mayors and aldermen) of New Amsterdam were faced with “four King’s frigates from England, sent hither by his Majesty and his brother, the Duke of York, with commission to reduce not only this place, but also the whole N. Netherland under his Majesty’s authority…”

The Dutch & the English, Part 3: Construction of the Wall (1653-1663)

Soon after the colony of New Amsterdam was established, work began on Fort Amsterdam on the southern tip of Manhattan Island, completed sometime around 1625. Over time, this earth and sod fort was hardened with stone...

The Dutch & the English, Part 2: A Wall by Any Other Name

In 1653, the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam built a fortification along the northern edge of the town, running from the Hudson River (today's Greenwich Street) to the East River (then lapping at Pearl Street). Eventually the English captured the city, and named the street that ran along that old fortification Wall Street. But what did the Dutch call it?