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ORIGINS

Did you know? Selling Manhattan for $24.

by Colleen Slentz

There is an often-repeated myth about the origins of New York City that goes something like this: when the Dutch first arrived in the area, they persuaded the Native Americans to sell Manhattan for the modern equivalent of $24. Listeners will smirk in appreciation of the irony; today Manhattan contains the most valuable real estate in the country. However, this story is simply untrue, and the Native Americans were not so foolish as this story might indicate. Unlike the Europeans, the Native Americans had no concept of land ownership. They did not consider the transaction a sale; they would have been more likely to consider it renting ironically, a situation familiar to many New Yorkers as well.

A 17th-century artist's impression of lower Manhattan and Fort Amsterdam.
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