A Tale of Two Flags
By Irish America Staff
March / April 2020
Back in 1974, City Council President Paul O’Dwyer introduced a bill that would change the date on the New York’s flag and seal from 1664 to 1625. The move was an effort to set history straight and to recognize the city’s Dutch heritage on the 700th anniversary of the founding of the city of Amsterdam in the Netherlands.
The Irish-born O’Dwyer noted that the only significance of the year 1664 was that the city fathers took an oath of allegiance to Charles II of England, following Peter Stuyvesant’s capitulation to the Duke of York’s forces, and cited a number of historical documents showing that the Dutch presence in New York, which began with Henry Hudson’s 1609 Dutch East India Company-funded voyage up the river that now bears his name, had coalesced into what amounted to a city by 1625.
“In truth,” O’Dwyer said at the time, “the city had then been in existence with a democratic form of government for 39 years.”
While some, including Philip Klingle of the New York Historical Society, disputed O’Dwyer’s claim, and others stated that O’Dwyer’s Irish heritage was the source of his wish to downplay the British legacy of the city, the change was made on December 30, 1977, when the seal was subtly modified. The date was changed from 1664 (when the kingdom of England took possession) to 1625, when it was founded by the Dutch. ♦