John Bowne's Flushing: material life on a Dutch frontier, 1645-1700

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University of Delaware
Seeking greater opportunity and religious toleration, a group of New Englanders migrated to Dutch western Long Island. In 1645 they were granted a patent for the town of Flushing. Located on the periphery of New Netherland, Flushing was one of five English communities buffering eastern Long Island settlements controlled by English authorities. Cultures converged in this frontier region. English settlers mixed with Dutch inhabitants, Quakers, French Huguenots, Native Americans, and enslaved Africans. Flushing's diverse residents benefited from the town's strategic location on the Long Island Sound and the area's productive marshes and meadows which supported trade and the acquisition of international goods. Using a collection of probate inventories spanning the years 1669 to 1689 and the account book of John and Samuel Bowne (1649-1703), this thesis investigates local production and consumption and the influence of pluralism upon Flushing's material landscape. Explorations of agricultural methods, trade, fashion, and domestic interiors reveal that seventeenth-century Flushing was an identifiably English and Quaker enclave that boasted a rich and complex material life shaped by the selective appropriation and exchange of objects and ideas from various Native and European sources.