48 Blaws Come to the New World

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In Blog 3, we discussed the migration of the Blaw family and many other Dutch families from New York to Monmouth County, NJ and then westward to Somerset County, NJ. In this blog, we explore how the Blaw family became established in New Amsterdam and what is at the site of their home today.

Trade Led to Colonization

In the early 1600s, European countries were actively involved in trading and colonization. Shipbuilding had reached a point where large sailing ships could travel great distances and hold many goods acquired in foreign ports. Trade was a big part of the economy at the time when the Dutch settled New Amsterdam (New York). The routes to the “far east” had been established, and countries were developing fleets to bring trade items back to Europe. There was plenty of competition in this enterprise. Nations formed trading companies, which were conglomerate enterprises that sought goods in India, China, and other parts of Southeast Asia. They brought Mughal Indian silk and textiles, East India spices, Indonesian coffee, Formosan sugarcane, and South African wine, back to Europe, where they were sold or used in the manufacturing of other products. They also acquired silver and gold from Japan.

The primary competitors that formed trading companies were the English, Portuguese, Spanish, and Dutch. They all had large fleets that not only brought back raw materials and finished products to their countries but also used the fleets for military purposes. These trading companies also conducted exploratory expeditions to unknown parts of the world.

The Dutch had two trading companies that serviced different parts of the world. The Dutch East India Company sought goods from the Far East, while the Dutch West India Company traded mainly in North and South America. Combined, these companies were known at the Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie or VOC.

This carved logo of the VOC originally appeared above the entrance

to the Castle of Good Hope in South Africa.

Colonies often developed wherever trading posts were established. These posts were near ports to facilitate trading and resupplying ships to continue their voyages. Some of these colonies became Dutch settlements, at least for a time. Such was the case with New Amsterdam, on a large harbor that gave access to the Atlantic Ocean known today as New York Harbor. From this point, the Dutch worked with Indian tribes that were part of the Lenni Lenape nation to harvest beaver and otter pelts to send to Europe for the wealthy to use for hats and coats.

Slavery and the VOC

The VOC was not just about trading in spices and textiles. There was a strong market for slaves as well. The East India Company established a colony in South Africa and enslaved local men in the colony and in other parts of the world. In the East Indies, they again used local people as slaves.