People, Races, Ethnicity in the U.S. Dutch Americans Part 1

About the Dutch Americans in the U.S. including where they are from, why they left, how many there are, famous Dutch-Americans and more.


Where They Came From: The first Dutch immigrants who settled in North America in the 17th century were mainly from the Netherlands' maritime cities. When mass migration began in the mid-19th century, most immigrants came from the rural provinces of Friesland and Groningen in the north, from Gelderland in the middle of the country, and from Zeeland and North Brabant in the south. During the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, increasing numbers of immigrants came from urban areas, including Amsterdam, Arnhem, Haarlem, Rotterdam, and Utrecht. In the 1950s and 1960s, many immigrants to the U.S. were Dutch Indonesians who fled from Sukarno's newly independent Indonesia.

Why They Left: The Dutch who came to North America in the early 1600s were merchants, traders, and seamen, motivated by the profits derived from fur trading with the American Indians. Also among these first colonists were the "patroons," wealthy Dutch farmers owning large tracts of land in the New World, who brought with them farm laborers and exploited the fertile Hudson Valley.

Beginning in the 1840s, mass Dutch migration to the U.S. was sparked by religious conflicts. In the Netherlands, the monarchy liberalized the Dutch Reformed Church in the early 19th century. Many traditionalists broke with the Dutch Reformed Church and were labeled "Seceders." The Dutch government outlawed the sect, and the Seceders, along with Dutch Catholics, became the vanguard of the Dutch exodus to America.

During the early 19th century, the Dutch economy stagnated, and in 1845 and 1846 a potato blight--like the one which struck Ireland--destroyed the crops, so the Dutch lower classes lost the one cheap staple food they relied on for subsistence. Throughout the century, low incomes plus a lack of jobs stimulated Netherlanders to emigrate to America.

This immigration was encouraged and facilitated by American agents, representing real estate and railroad companies, who went to the Netherlands to promote migration. Immigration was simplified when, in 1873, the Holland-America Line opened direct steamship service between Rotterdam and New York, charging only $10 to $12 for a transatlantic passage.

When the U.S. began enforcing strict immigration laws in the 1920s, Dutch immigrants headed for Canada instead. After W.W. II, Dutch immigration revived because of economic chaos in the Netherlands and disillusionment with European politics and war.

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