Wall Street never cut a deal that good again: the whole of Manhattan purchased from the original Indian inhabitants for 24 dollars.
The only written testimony to the sale 400 years ago now headlines an exhibition opening on Sunday on New Amsterdam, the impoverished Dutch colony that the English soon seized and turned into New York.
The rarely displayed letter — about the size of A3 paper and torn at the left hand corner — joins maps, books and documents from the Dutch National Archives on display at South Street Seaport Museum, in the old New York docks.
The exhibition is part of celebrations marking the 400th anniversary since adventurer Henry Hudson explored Manhattan on behalf of Holland’s trading powerhouse, the Dutch East Indian Company.
Yet it is the failure of Holland to hold on to that extraordinary piece of real estate, or even to foresee the island’s importance, that overshadows Hudson’s achievement.