The Three Dutch Companies
There were three Dutch Companies that operated the New Netherland colony: the United East India Company, the New Netherland Company, and the United West India Company.
Flag of the United East India Company (VOC)
The United East India Company 1602-1798
The Dutch merchants began slave-trading on the Guinea coast of Africa in 1593. In 1596 they sent the first expedition to India and the Spice Islands. The returning ships with their valuable cargo of spices set off wild speculation. Private companies sent twelve expeditions to the East Indies between 1598 and 1605 seeking profitable trade.
To realize the benefits of a monopoly, the Dutch government chartered the United East India Company in 1602, which was to be an important power until 1799. The small trading companies merged into the Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie, The United Dutch East India Company, or VOC, which was a private stock company empowered to trade, make treaties, build forts, maintain troops, and operate courts of law in all the East Indies. The VOC dealt in the typical commodities: spices, coffee, tea, tobacco, etc. But also more cultural items: silks, Chinese and Japanese porcelain, furniture and "objects d'art" were transported to Europe where they found a ready market.
On February 1603 the trustees decided that all properties of the company would be fitted with the VOC mark: the facades of buildings, fortresses and factories as well as ships, flags, chests, glassware, chinaware, canons, swords, guns, pipes, bales, publications, book bindings and paper.
Dutch East India Company notebook, Delft Chamber, late 18th century.
13.4cm by 8.2cm, shark skin with silver clasps, and silver rod for closure
The silver book clasps contain the VOC emblem and the letter D for the Delft chamber within a rococo scroll cartouche. The cover is adorned with a rococo cartouche enclosing a VOC ship. VOC officials received these small notebooks to use on their travels to Asia.
The Dutch decisively defeated the Spanish at Gibraltar in 1607, the Dutch were masters of the ocean trade routes.
To search out a more direct route to the profitable trade in the East, the United East India Company appointed Henry Hudson, an English seafarer, to investigate a westward route. Hudson entered Dealaware Bay and the North River, now known as the Hudson River, almost as far as Albany. He claimed the area for the Dutch in 1609; he named Staaten Eylandt, or Staten Island, in honor of the sponsor of his expedition, the States General of the Netherlands.
In 1613, the Dutch explorer Adrien Block built the New Amsterdam fort on the island of Manhatten. The land between the Hudson River and Delaware was known as New Belgium or New Holland.
The Dutch East India Company began a trading post called Mannahatta in 1614 on Manhattan Island.
A number of Dutch merchants were attracted by the possibility of trading with the Indians for furs. At first the trade was more or less open to anyone who could afford the investment.
The New Netherland Company, 1615-1618
On October 11, 1614 merchants from the cities of Amsterdam and Hoorn formed The New Netherland Company receiving a three year monopoly for fur trading in the newly discovered region from the States General of the United Provinces. The company's purpose was business, not colonization. That same year the company established a trading post at Fort Orange on Castle Island, near Albany, New York and began trading for furs. The Dutch established the Bergen trading post in New Jersey in 1618. The company failed the same year. After 1618 New Netherland was open to all traders, but the majority of trade was still conducted by the founders of the New Netherland Company until the establishment of the Dutch West India Company in 1621.
Flag of the United West India Company (WIC)
The United West India Company, 1621-1674 and 1675-1793
In 1621 the States General charted the United West India Company, known as the Geoctroyeerde West-Indische Compagnie (GWC,) known in English as the West India Company (WIC.) The company charter is found in the Van Rensselaer Bowier Manuscripts. In 1624 the company made a permanent settlement on Manhattan.
Eighteen families pioneered the the stockaded fur trading post at Albany in 1624. Peter Minuits arrived as governor, and settled Breukelen, now Brooklyn. In 1629 the settlement of Pavonia began in New Jersey. The same year the manor or patroon system was established with Wouter Van Twiller as agent. In 1631, a group of Walloons (French-speaking Belgians) boarded a ship for Manhattan Island.
Proposed coat of arms for New Amsterdam with the West India Company monogram
In 1631 the United West India Company built a seaport at Lewes, Delaware. The following year the Lenni Lenape massacred the settlers there. Minuits ws recalled in 1633, and lead a Swedish colony, patronized by King Gustavus Adolphus, to Delaware in 1638. The Swedish company established a fort on the Delaware, captured by the Dutch in 1655.
Van Teiller governed from 1633 until 1638. William Kieft was the governor from 1638 to 1647.
In an attempt to increase revenue, in 1638 the West India Company abandoned its trading monopoly to share the operating costs with other merchants.
1639-1661 The Dutch attempted to colonize Staten Island, but were stopped by the Indians. The Dutch massacred Indians at Pavonia in 1643, increasing the conflict. The settlement at Lewes Delaware was reestablished, and the trading post was named Sekonnessinck.
Peter Stuyvesant assumed power in 1647 until 1664. 1661 A small group of Dutch and French founded Oude Dorp, now Old Town on Staten Island. In 1664 the Dutch paid for the construction of the New York citadel in wampum. Stuyvesant arranged a loan worth over 5,000 Dutch gilders in wampum to pay the wages of the workers constructing the citadel.
The English conquered New Netherland in 1664, and granted New Jersey to Berkley and Carteret.
Flag of the United East India Company, Amsterdam Chamber
The Company Flags
The orange, white and blue colors came from the Dutch national flag. For a period of time the bottom bar was black, and I have seen flags with both the top and bottom bar in black. On the VOC flag Henry Hudson flew during his voyage to America in 1609, above the letters VOC was the letter A, sometimes inverted, for the home port of Amsterdam. Other flags of WIC and VOC can be found on the following pages:
of the Netherlands West India Company
of the Netherlands East India Company