The island of Manhattan was purchased from the Native Americans who inhabited the land for twenty-four dollars worth of goods. When the Dutch came across the Atlantic and into the Americas, land was so cheap they were able to purchase the land in exchange for some goods.
The informant grew up in the city of Manhattan and remembers talking about this myth inside of their elementary school classroom. They talk of how everyone who tells this story chopped the low price to inflation. The informant believed that twenty-four dollars was a lot back then. He believed that the craziest part of the story is how crazy inflation is rather than the abuse of power that took place. I then pulled out an inflation calculator, and $24 dollars when the Dutch first landed in New York is worth about $2,000 now. Pennies in comparison to the vast amounts of wealth the Dutch had at the time. The informant now views this myth in a different light. Before, they saw the story had a connotation of “wow, the dollar used to go so far”. Now they see the story as exposing how “Native Americans were totally robbed”.
This myth is really interesting given how time can really affect the impact it will have on people who hear it. Because the informant heard this story as a child, it carried with it a sense of innocence. As he has gotten older and Americans have begun to recognize the brutality of colonization, the story very quickly changes tone. What was once a fun little tidbit about the city is now a scar that has been passed down generations. This is a story that could be about the abuse of power on the colonizers part, native Americans being gullible and stupid, or that both parties had the best intentions in mind and everyone was happy after the exchange. The implications of this founding myth can vary widely from person to person. This is also a wonderful example of how the lines between myth and legend are often blurred. Although this is a founding story for the island of Manhattan, it is likely untrue.