Comic History of the United States - Bill Nye

The Discovery of New York

The author will now refer to the discovery of the Hudson River and the town of New York via Fort Lee and the 125th Street Ferry.

New York was afterwards sold for twenty-four dollars,—the whole island. When I think of this I go into my family gallery, which I also use as a swear room, and tell those ancestors of mine what I think of them. Where were they when New York was sold for twenty-four dollars? Were they having their portraits painted by Landseer, or their deposition taken by Jeffreys, or having their Little Lord Fauntleroy clothes made?

Do not encourage them to believe that they will escape me in future years. Some of them died unregenerate, and are now, I am told, in a country where they may possibly be damned; and I will attend to the others personally.

Twenty-four dollars for New York! Why, my Croton-water tax on one house and lot with fifty feet four and one-fourth inches front is fifty-nine dollars and no questions asked. Why, you can't get a voter for that now.

Henry—or Hendrik—Hudson was an English navigator, of whose birth and early history nothing is known definitely, hence his name is never mentioned in many of the best homes in New York.

In 1607 he made a voyage in search of the Northwest Passage. In one of his voyages he discovered Cape Cod, and later on the Hudson River.

This was one hundred and seventeen years after Columbus discovered America; which shows that the discovering business was not pushed as it should have been by those who had it in charge.

Hudson went up the river as far as Albany, but, finding no one there whom he knew, he hastened back as far as 209th Street West, and anchored.

He discovered Hudson Bay and Hudson Strait, and made other journeys by water, though aquatting was then in its infancy. Afterwards his sailors became mutinous, and set Hendrik and his son, with seven infirm sailors, afloat.

Ah! Whom have we here? (See next page.)

It is Hendrik Hudson, who discovered the Hudson River.

Here he has just landed at the foot of 209th Street, New York, where he offered the Indians liquor, but they refused.

How 209th Street has changed!

The artist has been fortunate in getting the expression of the Indians in the act of refusing. Mr. Hudson's great reputation lies in the fact that he discovered the river which bears his name; but the thinking mind will at once regard the discovery of an Indian who does not drink as far more wonderful.

[Illustration] from Comic History of the U.S.A. by Bill Nye


Some historians say that this especial delegation was swept away afterward by a pestilence, whilst others commenting on the incident maintain that Hudson lied.

It is the only historical question regarding America not fully settled by this book.

Nothing more was heard of him till he turned up in a thinking part in "Rip Van Winkle."

Many claims regarding the discovery of various parts of the United States had been previously made. The Cabots had discovered Labrador, the Spaniards the southern part of the United States; the Norsemen had discovered Minneapolis, and Columbus had discovered San Salvador and gone home to meet a ninety-day note due in Palos for the use of the Pinta, which he had hired by the hour.

But we are speaking of the discovery of New York.

About this time a solitary horseman might have been seen at West 209th Street, clothed in a little brief authority, and looking out to the west as he petulantly spoke in the Tammany dialect, then in the language of the blank-verse Indian. He began, "Another day of anxiety has passed, and yet we have not been discovered! The Great Spirit tells me in the thunder of the surf and the roaring cataract of the Harlem that within a week we will be discovered for the first time."

As he stands there aboard of his horse, one sees that he is a chief in every respect and in life's great drama would naturally occupy the middle of the stage. It was at this moment that Hudson slipped down the river from Albany past Fort Lee, and, dropping a nickel in the slot at 125th Street, weighed his anchor at that place. As soon as he had landed and discovered the city, he was approached by the chief, who said, "We gates. I am one of the committee to show you our little town. I suppose you have a power of attorney, of course, for discovering us?"

"Yes," said Hudson. "As Columbus used to say when he discovered San Salvador, 'I do it by the right vested in me by my sovereigns.' 'That oversizes my pile by a sovereign and a half,' says one of the natives; and so, if you have not heard it, there is a good thing for one of your dinner-speeches here."

"Very good," said the chief, as they jogged down-town on a swift Sixth Avenue elevated train towards the wigwams on 14th Street, and going at the rate of four miles an hour. "We do not care especially who discovers us, so long as we hold control of the city organization. How about that, Hank?"

"That will be satisfactory," said Mr. Hudson, taking a package of imported cheese and eating it, so that they could have the car to themselves.

"We will take the departments, such as Police, Street-Cleaning, etc., etc., etc., while you and Columbus get your pictures on the currency and have your graves mussed up on anniversaries. We get the two-moment horses and the country chateaux on the Bronx. Sabe?"

"That is, you do not care whose portrait is on the currency," said Hudson, "so you get the currency."

Said the man, "That is the sense of the meeting."

Thus was New York discovered via Albany and Fort Lee, and five minutes after the two touched glasses, the brim of the schoppin and the Manhattan cocktail tinkled together, and New York was inaugurated.

Obtaining a gentle and philanthropical gentleman who knew too well the city by gas-light, they saw the town so thoroughly that nearly every building in the morning wore a bright red sign which read—


Regarding the question as to who has the right to claim the priority of discovery of New York, I unite with one of the ablest historians now living in stating that I do not know.

Here and there throughout the work of all great historians who are frank and honest, chapter after chapter of information like this will burst forth upon the eye of the surprised and delighted reader.

Society at the time of the discovery of the blank-verse Indian of America was crude. Hudson's arrival, of course, among older citizens soon called out those who desired his acquaintance, but he noticed that club life was not what it has since become, especially Indian club life.

[Illustration] from Comic History of the U.S.A. by Bill Nye


He found a nation whose regular job was war and whose religion was the ever-present prayer that they might eat the heart of their enemy plain.

The Indian High School and Young Ladies' Seminary captured by Columbus, as shown in the pictures of his arrival at home and his presentation to the royal pair one hundred and seventeen years before this, it is said, brought a royal flush to the face of King Ferdie, who had been well brought up.

This can be readily understood when we remember that the Indian wore at court a court plaster, a parlor-lamp-shade in stormy weather, made of lawn grass, or a surcingle of front teeth.

[Illustration] from Comic History of the U.S.A. by Bill Nye


They were shown also in all these paintings as graceful and beautiful in figure; but in those days when the Pocahontas girls went barefooted till the age of eighty-nine years, chewed tobacco, kept Lent all winter and then ate a brace of middle aged men for Easter, the figure must have been affected by this irregularity of meals.

[Illustration] from Comic History of the U.S.A. by Bill Nye


Unless the Pocahontas of the present day has fallen off sadly in her carriage and beauty, to be saved from death by her, as Smith was, and feel that she therefore had a claim on him, must have given one nervous prostration, paresis, and insomnia.

The Indian and the white race never really united or amalgamated outside of Canada. The Indian has always held aloof from us, and even as late as Sitting Bull's time that noted cavalry officer said to the author that the white people who simply came over in the Mayflower could not marry into his family on that ground. He wanted to know why they had to come over in the Mayflower.

[Illustration] from Comic History of the U.S.A. by Bill Nye


"We were here," said the aged warrior, as he stole a bacon-rind which I used for lubricating my saw, and ate it thoughtfully, "we were here and helped Adam 'round up' and brand his animals. We are an old family, and never did manual labor. We are just as poor and proud and indolent as those who are of noble blood. We know we are of noble blood because we have to take sarsaparilla all the time. We claim to come by direct descent from Job, of whom the inspired writer says,—

"Old Job he was a fine young lad,

Sing Glory hallelujah.

His heart was good, but his blood was bad,

Sing Glory hallelujah."