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Interpreting the Evidence

Ordinance Regulating the Picking of Hops, August 31, 1644

  • Documents in this Activity:
  • Historical Eras:

    Colonial America (1630s - 1760)

  • Thinking Skill:

    Historical Analysis & Interpretation

  • Grade Level:

    Upper Elementary
    Middle School
    High School

  • Topics:


  • Primary Source Types:

    Written Document

  • Creator:

    NYS Archives Partnership Trust Education Team

  1. Load Ordinance Regulating the Picking of Hops, August 31, 1644 in Main Image Viewer

Suggested Teaching Instructions

Document Description
Ordinance regulating the picking of hops, August 31, 1644.

Historical Context
The West India Company brought the first settlers to New Netherland to gather beaver pelts to sell back in the Netherlands but they had a hard time finding enough people to settle the colony. In an effort to attract more people, the company decided to give private entrepreneurs pieces of land in New Netherland if the entrepreneurs (patroons) promised to ship fifty colonists to it within four years. So, in 1631, a Dutch diamond merchant named Kiliaen van Rensselaer bought a large tract of land around Fort Orange from the Mahicans who had long lived there. He established a "patroonship," or private farming community, which he named Rensselaerswijck. Many patroons bought land, but Kiliaen Van Rensselaer was the only one who was able to build a successful colony. His patroonship, Rensselaerswyck, lasted into the nineteenth century, passing down through generations of the Van Rensselaer family.
Kiliaen Van Rensselaer never visited America, but he worked hard to make his patroonship a success. Rensselaerswyck grew quickly, with a steady stream of farmers and tradesmen coming from Europe. Farming was the main activity in the patroonship. The products of farming were used to support the growing patroonship, but also the settlers in colonies nearby. Van Rensselaer had thought that the nearby West India Company settlement of Fort Orange, in the area of present-day Albany, and his own colony of Rensselaerswyck would be mutually supporting: the fort would provide protection, and the patroonship would supply the fort with goods. Van Rensselaer hoped to make a profit by selling goods to the settlers in the fort. But the two settlements were so close to each other that they competed for profits, leading to a tense relationship between the patroon and the West India Company that controlled the fort.

Ordinance regulating the picking of hops August 31, 1644
The honorable court of the colony of Rensselaerswyck, noticing the great evil which occurs yearly by the untimely picking of the hops which tends largely to the loss and detriment of this colony, and wishing to remedy this, have ordered and thought fit, as they hereby do order and think fit, that no one shall be allowed to pick any hops in this colony or to carry any hops that are picked outside into the colony before the 25th of September of each year, on forfeiture of the said picked hops and an additional fine of 25 Carolus guilders whenever any one is found to act contrary to this ordinance; and the hops which have been picked or are being picked at present shall be burned by the officer of this colony, as they are not merchantable hops and cause great fraud by being mixed with others and otherwise. Therefore, let every one take heed and guard himself against loss. Done in council, this 31st of August 1644.
By order of the honorable court of this colony of Rensselaerswyck.
Underneath was written:
Arendt Van Curler, Secretary.

Compelling Question
What role did farming play in the life of the colony at Rensselaerswyck?

Check for Understanding
Imagine you are a farmer in Rensselaerswyck in the early years of settlement. Write a letter to your family back in the Netherlands describing your daily life and work.