Before There Was Trenton

Posted in Exhibits, Past Exhibits

A 350th Anniversary Look at the 17th Century

Display of Early New Netherland Colonial Artifacts

June 22 – October 19, 2014


 Lecture by the Curators

October 12, 2014
2 pm

This year New Jersey observes the 350th Anniversary of its political establishment in 1664.  To commemorate the event, The Trenton City Museum  is hosting a display of items related to the mid-1600s — before there was a place called Trent’s-town.


Prior to 1664, New Netherland was a colony founded by the Dutch on the east coast of North America.  The Dutch colony extended from Hartford, CT in the east to Albany, New York, in the north to Delaware in the south, encompassing parts of what are now the states of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Connecticut and Delaware.  The New Netherland colony included three major Rivers:  Nord (North River, now the Hudson River), Sud (South River, now the Delaware River) and the Versche (Fresh) River (now the Connecticut River).  The Assunpink Trail was the main route for travel across what is now Central New Jersey.  When the English wrested control of the colony from the Dutch in 1664, they turned its capital, New Amsterdam, into New York City.


The Dutch colonial efforts were mostly directed toward trade with Native Americans.  However, their permanent settlements in some cases caused conflict with native peoples as well as with several other European powers, especially England, Sweden and France.


Beaver pelts were especially sought after for the fur trade.  Marten, fox, otter and mink were also bartered.  In 1624 (the year New Amsterdam was first settled), Dutch settlers shipped 1500 beaver and 500 otter skins to Europe.  Thereafter, the fur trade grew enormously under the Dutch. Fort Orange (now Albany) and New Amsterdam (now New York City) were the centers of the fur trade, reaching deep into the Lenni Lenape and Mohawk tribal territory, and promoting contact between the Dutch and the Native peoples.


Before There Was Trenton recalls that early period of exploration, contact and settlement.

Among the items on display are items highly valued in the fur trade: hand-forged trade axes, knives and other metal tools; easily transportable and popular trading commodities like the red “white heart” glass trade beads made in Venice; objects reflecting Dutch nautical exploration and the fur trade; and Lenni Lenape stone tools from the Delaware Valley as well as early agricultural items.


Tobacco, another highly desirable trade commodity, is represented in the display by early tobacco pipes.  Because tobacco was so expensive, the 17th century pipe bowls were small, holding only a pinch of tobacco.

Curator David Bosted with display artifacts.

Curator David Bosted with display artifacts.


Before There Was Trenton is curated by Trenton Museum Society Trustee David Bosted and son Nicholas Bosted. 

A formal lecture, “Before There Was Trenton” will be given by the curators on Sunday October 12, at 2 PM.

The lecture discusses the events and conditions in the Delaware Valley in the 17th and early 18th century, covering the six topics and types of artifacts that are part of the display:  1) Nautical Exploration,  2)  Native American Stone Tools,  3)  Metal Tools & Hand-forged items,  4)  Trade-related Items,  5)  Early Settlement and Agriculture, and  6) 17th century art embodied in Dutch Delft tiles.  Bosted discusses the important historical research that has been done concerning the 17th century by The Holland Society of New York (since 1885), by the New Netherland Institute currently housed in the NY State Museum in Albany, and by author Russell Shorto for his acclaimed 2004 history book, The Island at the Center of the World.