Note: Fort Orange, renamed Albany
Peter Kalm „was commissioned by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences to travel to the North American colonies and to bring back seeds and plants that might be useful to agriculture.“ He published a „journal of his travels as En Resa til Norra America (Stockholm, 1753–1761). It was translated into German, Dutch, and French. Kalm described not only the flora and fauna of the New World, but the lives of the Native Americans and the (European) colonists whom he met. A United States edition was later translated and edited by Swedish-American scholar and literary historian Adolph B. Benson (1881–1961). It was published as Peter Kalm’s Travels in North America: The English Version of 1770 (Wilson-Erickson Inc., 1937).“
The following are excerpts from his journal, including his observances and prejudices, particularly in reference to the Dutch, who were already native to the Hudson Valley. The illustration above refers to a whale sighting near Albany a century before Peter Kalm had embarked on his exhibition.
The Dutch in Albany (June the 21st, 1749)
„The inhabitants of
Sweden (South Jersey) of which they were jealous. However the pleasure of possessing this conquered land and their own was but of short duration for towards the end of 1666 Sir Robert Carr by order of King Charles the second, went to New York, then New Amsterdam and took it. Soon ofter Colonel Nichols went to which then bore the name of Fort Orange, and upon taking it, named it , from the Duke of York’s Scotch title. The Dutch inhabitants were allowed either to continue where they were, and under the protection of the English to enjoy all their former privileges, or to leave the country. The greater part of them chose to stay and from them the Dutchmen are descended who now live in the province of New York, and who possess the greatest and best estates in that province.
and its environs are almost all Dutchmen. They speak Dutch, have a Dutch preacher, and the divine service is performed in that language. Their manners are likewise quite Dutch; their dress is however like that of the English. It is well known that the first Europeans who settled in the province of New York were Dutchmen. During the time that they were the masters of this province, they seized New
„The avarice, selfishness and immeasurable love of money of the inhabitants of
are very well known throughout all North America, by the French and even by the Dutch in the lower part of New York province. If anyone ever intends to to go to Albany it is said in jest that he is about to go the land of Canaan, since Canaan and the land of the Jews mean one and the same thing, and that Albany is a fatherland and proper home for arch-Jews, since the inhabitants of Albany are even worse. If a real Jew who understands the art of getting forward perfectly well, should settle amongst them, they would not fail to ruin him. For this reason nobody comes to this place without the most pressing necessity; and therefore I was asked in several places, what induced me to make the pilgrimage to this New Canaan. I likewise found the judgment which people formed of them was not without foundation. For though they seldom see any strangers, (except those who go from the British colonies to Canada and back again) and one might therefore expert to find victuals and accommodation for travelers cheaper than in places where they always resort, yet I experienced the contrary. I was here obliged to pay for everything twice, thrice, and four times as much as in any part of North America which I have passed through. If I wanted their assistance, I was obliged to pay them very well for it, and when I wanted to purchase anything, or be helped in some case or other, I could at once see what kind of blood ran into their veins, for they either fixed exorbitant prices for their services or were very reluctant to assist me. Such was this people in general. However, there were some among them who equalled any in North America or anywhere else, in politeness, equity, goodness, and readiness to serve and to oblige; but but their number fell far short of that of the former. If I may be allowed to declare my conjectures, the origin of the inhabitants of and its neighborhood seems to me to be as follows. While Dutch possessed this country, and intended to people it, the government sent a pack of vagabonds of which they intended to clear their native country, and sent them along with a number of other settlers to this province. The vagabonds were sent far from the other settlers, upon the borders towards the Indians and other enemies, and a few honest families were persuaded to go with them in order to keep them in bounds. I cannot any other way account for the difference between the inhabitants of descendants of so respectable a nation as the Dutch who are settled in time lower part of New York province. The latter are civil, obliging, just in the prices, and sincere; and though they are not ceremonious, yet they are well meaning and honest and their promises may be relied on.
„The behavior of the inhabitants of
during the war between England and France, which ended with the peace of Aix-la-Chapelle, has, among several other causes, contributed to make them the object of hatred all the British colonies, but more especially in New England. For at the beginning of that war when the Indians of both parties had received orders to commence hostilities, the French engaged theirs to attack the inhabitants of New England, which they faithfully executed, killing everybody they met with, and carrying off whatever they found. During this time, the people of remained neutral, and carried on a great trade with the very Indians who murdered the inhabitants of New England. Articles such as silver spoons, bowls, cups, etc. of which the Indians robbed the houses in New England, were carried to Albany, for sale. The people of that town bought up these silver vessels, though the names of the owners were engraved on many of them, and encouraged the Indians to get more of them, promising to pay them, and whatever they would demand. This was afterwards interpreted by the inhabitants of New England to mean that inhabitants of Albany encouraged the Indians to kill more of the New England people, who were in manner their brothers, and were subjects of the same crown. Upon the first news of this behaviour, which the Indians themselves spread in New England, the inhabitants of the latter province were greatly incensed, and threatened that the first step they would take in another war would be to burn the adjacent parts. In the present war it will sufficiently appear how backward the other British provinces in America are in assisting , and the neighboring places, in case of an attack from the French or Indians. The hatred which the English bear against the people at is very great, but that of the Albanians against the English is carried to a ten times higher degree. This hatred has subsisted ever since the time when the English conquered this section, and is not yet extinguished, though they could never have gotten larger advantages under the Dutch government than they have obtained under that of the English. For, in a manner, their privileges are greater than those of Englishmen themselves.
„In their homes the inhabitants of
are much: more sparing than the English and are stingier with their food. Generally what they serve is just enough for the meal and sometimes hardly that. The punch bowl is much more rarely seen than among the English. The women are perfectly well acquainted with economy; they rise early, go to sleep very late, and are almost superstitiously clean in regard to the floor, which is frequently scoured several times in the week. Inside the homes the women are neatly but not lavishly dressed. The children are taught both English and Dutch. The servants in the town are chiefly negroes. Some of the inhabitants wear their own hair very short, without a bag or queue, because these are looked upon as the characteristics of Frenchmen. As I wore my hair in a bag the first day I came here from Canada, I was surrounded with children, who called me a Frenchman, and some of the boldest offered to pull at my French head dress, so I was glad to get rid of it.“
November the 3rd (1749)
„I shall soon become tired of having to remain here and wait so long before I can get away. The morning after I arrived in this town two yachts departed, but it was impossible for me to get ready to leave on them, as I must procure various kinds of seeds of the walnut, chestnut, squash and other useful plants, a thing which I could not do in a hurry. People assured me that another boat was to leave as of Saturday last, but it is still tied up here, even though there is plenty of wind to-day.
„The inhabitants of this town (Albany) are as whole all Dutch or of Dutch extraction, descended from those who first came to settle this part of the country. Both sexes dress now very nearly like the English. In their homes and between themselves they always speak Dutch, so that rarely is an English word heard. They are so to speak permeated with a hatred toward the English, whom they ridicule and slander at every opportunity. This hatred is said to date back to the time when the English took this country away from the Dutch. Nearly all the books found in the homes are Dutch and it is seldom that an English book is seen. They are also more thrifty in their homes than the English. They are more frugal when preparing food, and seldom is more of it seen on the table than is consumed, and sometimes hardly that. They are careful not to load up the table with food as the English are accustomed to do. They are not so given to drink as the latter, and the punch bowl does not make a daily round in their households. When the men go out of doors, they frequently have only a white cap under the hat and no wig. Here are seen many men who make use of their own hair, cut short without a braid or knot. as both of the latter are considered a mark and characteristic of a Frenchman. The vast majority, in fact almost everyone here, carries on a business, though a great many here in addition their houses and farms in the country, close to or at some distance from the town. They have there good country estates, several sawmills and in many places even flour mills. The servants in this town are nearly all negroes. The children are instructed in both the English and the Dutch languages. The English accuse the inhabitants here of being big cheats and worse than the Jews.“
Peter Kalm’s Travels in North America, revised by Adolph B. Benson, Dover Publications, (c) 1937