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The Companies

Nieuw Nederland

Nieuw Amsterdam


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The east-coast of America was explored by Giovanni de Verazzano in 1524. In 1609 the territory east of the Delaware and around the mouth of the river Hudson were taken in possession by Henry Hudson for his principal, the Dutch United East India Company. In 1614 the Nieuw Nederland Compagnie was founded which was handed over to the West India Company in 1621. In 1623 the territory was named “The Province of New Netherland” (or: Nova Belgii). This consisted of the actual states of Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Vermont.


Even when the trade in the colony was reasonably profitable, it was nevertheless a failure, mainly because of the small number of colonists. For that reason the colony was exchanged by the Heeren XIX with the British for Surinam because of its expected profitable sugar-production and slave-trade. On 18 august 1664 four English frigates appeared on the Hudson and Peter Stuyvesant, the last Governor, handed over the colony to the British on 7 September of the same year. The strategic importance for the British was great because they controlled now all of the North-American east-coast from Terre Neuve down to the Caribbean Sea.  




The Companies


The cypher of the Eats India Company  (Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie) was adopted in 1603 by the Heeren XVII. It consisted of the letters V, O and C. On the seal of the Company there was a sailing-vessel.



The West India Company (Westindische Compagnie) had also a seal and a cypher. The cypher consisted of the letters G, W and C (Geoctrooieerde Westindische Compagnie). Some seals with the cypher of the Company on it have been preserved. [1]


Cypher of the Geoctroyeerde Westindische Compagnie

 (Print of a wooden stamp, coll. Penningkabinet R.A. 107)


Provisional regulations for the colony were promulgated by the Heeren XIX in 1624. These provided for a Director General and the control of the trade by the Company.  


Nieuw Nederland


As the sovereign of the colony was the States General of the Republic, the arms of that council were also the arms of its sovereign. The arms were: Or, a lion rampant Gules, crowned or, in his sinister a bundle of arrows and in his dexter a sword. The shield is crowned by a ancient princely crown.[2]


Detail of a map of Nieuw Nederland, 1655, showing the arms of the States General


A coat of arms for the colony was probably adopted by the first Governor Pieter Minuit (1626-’31) but no documents about these arms are preserved. It is:


Arms: Argent, a beaver per bend proper, and a bordure Orange, charged with a twist of wampum proper.

Crown: A crown of three hoops.


These arms were also on the seal of Nieuw Nederland. Its legend reads: SIGILLVM NOVI BELGII. Of this seal some drawings are known, one of it in the National Archives in The Hague.


The arms refer to the fur trade because the trade of beaver-skins was crucial in the colony. [3] They were mainly bought from the local population which accepted wampum for payment. The color orange refers to the Princes of Orange, in this case Maurice of Orange (1618-’25), Stadholder and Captain-Admiral-General of the Republic.

The crown poses some problems as it seems to be of a diadem set with small pearls and two groups of three larger pearls but also with three hoops. It is uncertain what rank was meant with this crown as it is something in between a royal crown and a crown of a count. This could mean that the status of the colony was uncertain. [4]

The arms were used until the end of  Dutch rule in 1664 and possibly again in 1673-’74.



Seal of the Colony of Nieuw Nederland.


Nieuw Amsterdam



The capital of Nieuw Nederland was Nieuw Amsterdam, numbering some 900 inhabitants in the time of the WIC. In 1630 an achievement was proposed for the city. This consisted of the arms of Amsterdam and a chief of a beaver in its colours on a white field. The arms were crowned with the Imperial Crown (borrowed from the achievement of Amsterdam) charged with the cypher of the Amsterdam chamber of the W.I.C., and supported by two beavers. This proposal was rejected. Later we see arms consisting of the arms of Amsterdam, the dexter part paly uneven Gules and Argent, the sinister part paly uneven Argent and Gules. The arms are crested by a beaver passant and is below some curtains charged with a shield of the WIC-cypher. These arms are also on the seal of the city. In 1664 Nieuw Amsterdam was renamed New York and the city is situated in the State of New York now.


Project for the achievement of Nieuw Amsterdam, 1630. Not adopted.

New York Historical Society - http://www.nyhistory.org/node/56636



Arms of Nieuw Amsterdam

as on the frontispiece of the “Beschryvinge van Nieuw Nederlant” by Adriaen van der Donck, 1656.


Photo Flickr

Seal of Nieuw Amsterdam

The arms of the city crested by the cypher of the WIC. L.: SIGILLUM AMSTELODAMENSIS IN NOVA BELGII


Also see: http://manhattanunlocked.blogspot.nl/2010/11/architecture-lesson-1.html



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© Hubert de Vries 2010-02-09. Updated 2011-04-04; 2013-02-19


[1]) Schutte, O: Catalogus der Zegelstempels, berustende in het Koninklijk Penningkabinet en enige andere verzamelingen. In: De Nederlandsche Leeuw 1971 n° 11, n°s 30-34, 35-41 (different chambers). Felhoen-Kraal, J.: Wapens en Zegels van Suriname, Amsterdam, 1950 pp. 8-9, figs 2-8.  

[2] ) Such a crown was worn for example by Margaretha of  Parma, governor of the Netherlands (1559-’67).

[3] ) The load of  ‘t Wapen van Amsterdam in 1626 for example, counted 7246 beaver-skins on a total amount of  8183 skins (89%).

[4]) Zieber in his “Heraldry in America” writes about the arms of Nieuw Nederland (p. 162): “This is the first public seal of the Province, and is thus described: “Argent, a Beaver, proper, Crest, a Coronet, Legend, SIGILLVM NOVI BELGII.” In a paper by Van der Donck, entitled “Further Observations on the Petition of the Commonalty of New Netherland”, it is stated, that “New Netherland was called a Province because it was invested by their High Mightinesses with the Arms of an Earl”.  In this blasoning the orange bordure and the twist of wampum, visible on the seal, are omitted. There is no other documentation available.

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