Dutch papers virtually back home from the USA
Dutch 17th-century documents from New Jersey are now on the website of the National Archives
The documents were recently found among the papers of John Brodhead (1814-1873), an American historical scholar who graduated from Rutgers College in 1831. Brodhead devoted himself to the study of American colonial history, for which he consulted many resources related to the colony of New Netherland.
Brodhead’s documents include letters signed by Dutch statesmen and naval commanders, such as Johan van Oldenbarnevelt, Johan and Cornelis de Witt and Michiel de Ruyter. Most of these documents relate to naval matters during the Dutch Golden Age and have burn marks on them. How did these documents end up in the USA, and why are they so badly burned?
On 8 January 1844 a fire erupted in the Ministry of Naval Affairs in The Hague, after a maid accidentally set the curtains aflame while lighting a candle. In an effort to save the archives of the Dutch admiralties that were held there, the smouldering papers were thrown out of the windows. Although some were returned, many of the documents found their way into the hands of collectors such as Brodhead.
Now, Brodhead’s letters are virtually reunited – although physically still half a world apart - with the other documents that survived the fire at the Ministry.