Commercial enterprises constituted the first organized wave of immigration from the Netherlands to North America during the early seventeenth century and led to the founding of Fort Nassau, which was only the second permanent European settlement in North America. Continuing Dutch immigration waves have produced both complete assimilation of the immigrants from the Netherlands into North American culture, and also continuing pockets of a persistent hyphenated “Dutch-American” culture.
Three major immigration waves have brought Dutch-speaking people from the Netherlands to North America. During the first third of the seventeenth century, the
The Dutch maritime empire of the early seventeenth century was a global one, with colonies stretching from Asia to Brazil. The explorations of
Immigrants spread outward from the first trading posts,
It soon became clear that a flow of additional immigrants would be needed to support continued commercial growth. Therefore, beginning in 1629, the
Economic hardships including potato and rye crop failures in the Netherlands during the 1840’s, were among the motivations for the second wave of Dutch immigration to the New World. However,
In 1834, the Dutch seceders officially broke from the Netherlands state religion. Some of their congregations, led by their pastors, emigrated as groups to the United States during the 1840’s and 1850’s. Many, perhaps most, settled in the Midwest, founding such towns as Oostburg and Holland (now Cedar Grove), in
During their first two waves of immigration, the Dutch brought with them to the New World a strong loyalty to the
Throughout the mid-nineteenth century, some congregations in the Midwest broke from the newly established Reformed Protestant Dutch Church in America. Members of these congregations regarded themselves as remaining more loyal to the 1834 secession that had encouraged nineteenth century Dutch immigration to America; they saw themselves as more committed to continuing some of the traditions of Calvinism. These tensions led to yet another separation in 1857 that created the Christian Reformed Church. Parallel developments in the old country helped to account for the fact that the new Christian Reformed denomination would attract the majority of Dutch immigrants during the peak years of the second wave of immigration, from 1880 until 1920. The two branches of Dutch Calvinist-based New World church denominations were later joined by two more, the Protestant Reformed Church and the Netherlands Reformed Congregations.
By the early twenty-first century, the Reformed Church in America had adopted such typical American Protestant traits as membership in the National Council of Churches and the World Council of Churches, while the Christian Reformed Church continued to emphasize its loyalty to somewhat more conservative practices. One of its distinguishing characteristics is its emphasis on Christian elementary and secondary schooling, rather than public schooling. Its generally conservative position is also exemplified by the fact that well into the twentieth century, Dutch-owned stores in western Michigan closed on Sundays. Moreover, it was not until 2008 that purchasing beer and wine was legal in Ottawa County, Michigan, the home of Holland and Zeeland.
During the twentieth century, all immigration to the United States was limited by new federal national origin-based quota legislation. Nevertheless,
Contemporary view of New Amsterdam about twenty-five years after the Dutch settled Manhattan Island.
The volume of Dutch immigration to Canada rose after the end of World War II. The Dutch and Canadian governments cooperated to encourage this postwar immigration. Canada was having a labor shortage, while there was surplus labor in the Netherlands. Many new arrivals landed in Canada in family groups, sponsored by relatives who were already settled. Strong Dutch-Canadian communities grew around church membership.
Historically, the Dutch in North America have focused on theological rather than political disputes, despite the paradoxical fact that three U.S. presidents are direct descendants of the first wave of Dutch immigrants (
A cohesive subculture has continued to exist among some geographically localized descendants of immigrants from the Netherlands. Although the majority of Americans of Dutch extraction have
Brinks, Herbert, ed. Dutch-American Voices: Letters from the United States, 1850-1930. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1995. Excellent collection of letters from nineteenth century Dutch immigrants to friends and relatives in the Netherlands. De Jong, Gerald F. The Dutch in America, 1609-1974. Boston: Twayne, 1975. Broad survey of Dutch immigration to the United States, from the earliest settlements through the first three quarters of the twentieth century. De Klerk, Peter, and Richard De Ridder, eds. Perspectives on the Christian Reformed Church: Studies in Its History, Theology and Ecumenicity. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1983. Collection of essays on a variety of aspects of the many schisms within the Dutch Reformed Church. Kessler, Henry H., and Eugene Rachlis. Peter Stuyvesant and His New York. New York: Random House, 1959. Biography of the Dutch founder of New Amsterdam that provides insights into the early colony. Rink, Oliver A. Holland on the Hudson: An Economic and Social History of Dutch New York. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1986. Useful general survey of the Dutch settlement of New York. Shorto, Russell. The Island in the Center of the World: The Epic Story of Dutch Manhattan and the Forgotten Colony That Shaped America. New York: Random House, 2004. Good, up-to-date study of early Dutch America. Stellingwerff, Johan, comp. Iowa Letters: Dutch Immigrants on the American Frontier. Translated by Walter Lagerwey, edited by Robert P. Swierenga. Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans, 2004. Large collection of primary documents that offers fascinating glimpses into Dutch immigrant life on the nineteenth century frontier. Swierenga, Robert. Dutch Chicago: A History of the Hollanders in the Windy City. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2002. Interesting microstudy of Dutch immigrants in the largest city in the American Midwest.
Canada vs. United States as immigrant destinations
New York City
New York State