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Manhattan ‘Purchase’ in 1626 Letter

September 22, 1999

NEW YORK (AP) _ A 1626 letter containing what is believed to be the only known mention of the Dutch purchase of Manhattan for $24 has been put on display at the New York Historical Society

No deed or official document of Manhattan’s sale to the Dutch from the Lenape Indians exists. The creased yellowed letter, written by a ship captain to the governors of the Dutch West India Company, briefly mentions the transaction.

``They (the Dutch settlers) have bought the island of Manhattes from the wildmen for the value of sixty guilders,″ it reads. The letter, put on display Monday, continues with a laundry list of items being sent to Amsterdam including beaver, rat, and mink skins.

Herbert Kraft, anthropologist and director of the Seton Hall University Museum, said the land transfer might not have been that big a deal, particularly because many of the Lenape lived in what is now New Jersey.

``At the time it was not a great piece of property,″ Kraft said of Manhattan. ``There were loads of mosquitoes and it was very rocky.″

Jim Rementer, a Lenape descendant and head of the Lenape Language Project in Bartlesville, Okla., said the Indians who ``sold″ Manhattan to the Dutch did not share European notions of land ownership.

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