Episode 10: Yankees vs. the Dutch

So this was a pretty fun episode for us, both researching it and actually recording the show. There's just a lot of oddness, not least the Dutch drainpipe issue.

As such, even though it's not the first item chronologically in the show, here's a picture of Dutch drain pipes:

See those spouts hanging off the front of the houses? Well, that's what Elkanah Watson was all up in arms about. Nifty stuff, eh?

Anywho, to the maps and data! Let's start with maps. First of all, here's the Northwest Territory, our topic of interest:

And here's a map of all the competing land claims in the "west" around the 1780s, 90s, and 1800s:


And, finally, here's a map by a modern cultural geographer that more-or-less traces out the areas that were settled by the Yankee Diaspora:


The dark blue "Yankeedom" bit is what we're really talking about, although I would say the Yankee Diaspora extends easily into the lighter blue Midlands, and sometimes down into the red of "Greater Appalachia." But the dark blue makes a nice core.

So we've got some nice maps to visualize our story.

Now, let's look at some data.


I mentioned some gross migration rates. But I want to provide something simpler: the net domestic migration of New York and New England from 1780-1900:

I want to draw your attention especially to the period from 1790 to 1810, the years we are discussing today. During this period, immigration into the US was low for a variety of reasons, even as domestic migration was quite unidirectionally westward. We see that New England's migration gets steeply negative, even as New York's gets positive. This is the Yankee diaspora in data. By the 1830s, New York begins to go negative as the Midwest opens up, and especially as immigration into New York rises sharply in the 1830s and 1840s, and many of those immigrants then head west themselves.

We can also do something really fun: we can look at the total net migration for New York and New England, and then compare it to the total net migration for the future states of the Northwest Territory:

Notice anything interesting? Cuz I do. New York and New England have a very close, negative relationship with the Northwest territory. In other words, a very large amount of the migration into the Northwest Territory can be explained by reference to migration coming from New York and New England. This relationship breaks down in the 1870s and 1880s unfortunately, but it's pretty tight up through the 1860s. All that to say: yes, the Midwest really is settled by the Yankee Diaspora to a large extent.


We've talked a lot of Albany in this episode, so it's only fitting I give you a population chart for Albany. Here you go:

As we discussed in the show: small population until the eve of the American Revolution, then a huge boom.

However, it's worth noting that, in terms of the growth rate, the early periods really were not so slow. In fact, growth from founding in 1614 to population estimates in 1710 suggest that this period had higher growth rates than the period from 1710 to 1790, or from 1810 to 1820.

But the real champion-periods for growth in Albany are, of course, 1790 to 1810, and 1820 to 1830. These periods routinely saw annual population growth of more than 5%, fueled largely by the influx of Yankee migrants, who rapidly outnumbered their Dutch predecessors in Albany.

A final note on Albany: we discussed the urban fires there, but I left out a historically tantalizing tidbit. There were in fact a series of fires in the Dutch parts of the city, and elsewhere. But several of these fires, especially one particularly large one that destroyed a major Dutch district, were alleged to be arson, and "hooded individuals" were spotted fleeing the scene rather suspiciously.

It is possible that these fires that reshaped Albany were not accidental, but in fact set for the purpose of destroying Dutch houses, enabling Yankee Americanization efforts to keep rolling forward. Elkanah Watson news clippings of these fires in his journals, though that's not saying much, because he kept news clippings of basically everything. Still, given how gleefully Watson exaggerated the story of the vigilante waterspout-chopping, and how clearly he felt architecture was a key element of American culture, it is kind of darkly curious to wonder if maybe this Yankee crusader took matters into his own hands, letting flames do what we could not accomplish politically.


Some resource links:

1. Liz Covart's article on Albany.

2. Liz Covart's excellent Podcast about early American history.

3. Michael Barone's book, which is really a must-read if you want to engage in the debate about what historical American migration means today.