New York State Study

New YorkThis New York State Study includes brief history about the state, geographical information, ideas for activities, interesting facts, and a printable New York map.  Join us!

Super Short History

New York was home to the Iroquois and Algonquin people from approximately 1100AD.  Both of these cultures had settled homes and villages and farmed corn, squash, and beans along with other crops.  They also hunted and fished.  The Iroquois were a confederacy of five tribes (later joined by a sixth) which had a federated monarchy sort of arrangement with a grand council made up of the hereditary sachems.  Their government was highly organized and formed with the purpose of ensuring peace, bringing an end to devastating wars between the tribes.

Europeans first arrived in New York in 1524 with a French expedition of discovery.  From that time fishermen, fur traders, and ships seeking timber visited the coast more or less regularly, making contact with the natives who established treaties and made trade agreements with the Europeans.  In 1609 the first permanent settlement in New York was founded by the Dutch. They called their city New Amsterdam. The Dutch made agreements and treaties, paying the natives for the land, including the island of Manhattan.  In 1664 the English took the city of New Amsterdam from the Dutch without firing a shot.  They renamed it New York and the city became a major trading port during colonial days.

New Amsterdam from a drawing made in 1671. Public domain, Wikimedia.

In 1787, following the Revolutionary War, New York became the eleventh state to accept the US Constitution.  Albany, an early Dutch fur trading outpost, became the capital in 1797.  The city of New York continued its importance as a port and soon also became an industrial and financial center in the New World.  By the late 1800’s New York City had become the main entry port for immigrants to the United States. The city grew by the tens of thousands.  After World War II New York City emerged as the financial and cultural capital of the world, a status it still retains today.  It is also still the home of millions of immigrants and their descendants.

The modern New York City skyline. Photo by Norbert Nagel, Mörfelden-Walldorf, Germany, CC license, Wikimedia.


Much of New York is covered with mountains including the famous Adirondack range.  The north and west of the state border on the Great Lakes and several fertile river valleys run through.  The south of the state is made up of the large Allegheny Plateau.  Except for New York City, the state is mostly made up of small towns and rural farms and covered in wilderness, rugged mountains, and beautiful lakes.  But 92% of the people of New York State live in urban environments, especially in the area surrounding New York City.  New York has hot and sometimes humid summers and cold winters with heavy snowfall.  The regions around New York City have hotter weather than the higher elevations upstate.

This is a waterfall in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York. Photo by Yinan Chen, released to the public domain, Wikimedia.

Fabulous Facts

  • Adirondack State Park, established in 1892, is larger than Yellowstone, Glacier, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, and Great Smoky Mountains parks combined.
  • New York City is the largest city in New York State and in the United States with a population of approximately 8.5 million people.
  • The Cities of Albany (the capital) and New York are both named after the same person, King James II of England.  He held the titles of Duke of York and Duke of Albany when each of the cities was renamed by the English after they took the region from the Dutch.
  • New York’s major industries include finance, shipping, dairy, cattle, vegetables, apples, printing and publishing, tourism, and industries like chemicals and machinery.
  • In 1932 and 1980 the city of Lake Placid hosted the winter Olympics.  In 1980 the US hockey team famously beat the Soviet’s in a cold war showdown.


  • Learn about one of the many tourist attractions in New York: the Statue of Liberty, Wall Street, Central Park, Empire State Building, Times Square, Niagara Falls, American Museum of Natural History, Metropolitan Museum of Art, and many more.
  • Many books are set in New York, read one.  The Great Gastby, The Catcher in the Rye, The Lightning Thief, From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, Harriet The Spy, The Cricket in Times Square, and My Side of the Mountain, plus many more.

Map of New York

You can print, label, and color this New York Map.  Include the lakes, mountains, rivers, and ocean, major cities, and any important landmarks you would like.

New York Map

Additional Layers

  • New York, like many states, is divided politically, with people from the urban areas supporting Democrats and the small towns and rural areas supporting Republicans.  Is it like that in your state?  Why?
  • In the early 1800’s western New York State became known as the Burned Over District because of the hundreds of religious revivals where people were “burning” with the Holy Spirit.  Learn more about this time period in American history.  What made people so interested in religion at just this time?  Today it seems like fewer and fewer people are interested in religion.  Why do you think this is?
  • All of the states are featured in Year Four of the Layers of Learning program.  New York can be found in Unit 4-16 along with fun activities involving baseball, food, and games.

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