By Gabe Sturges
As one can easily notice, the Capital Region—Schenectady in particular—still clings to the regal ancestral roots of the area’s Dutch founders. Of the many relics of the Dutch era, perhaps most iconic and indisputably pertinent resides comfortably within Union College’s regal grounds. As the readership of the Concordiensis can surely deduce, it is none other than The Dutch Oven—America’s first Dutch newspaper.
Similar to many of its counterparts—The New York Times and London Journal come to mind—The Dutch Oven stems from humble beginnings. Founded by Haans VanDenHattenhalter in his print shop along the idyllic canals of Amsterdam in 1624, The Dutch Oven was so named in reference to the delicious bakery residing next door that provided Haans with sustenance as he worked late into the night. Originally employing only Haans and his cobbler brother Jergen, the duo impressed the notoriously highbrow Amsterdam populace with their splendid prose and poignant articles.
As the Dutch government developed an economic interest in North America, prompting the mass exodus of thousands of Dutchmen, Haans and Jergen felt they had been presented with an incredible business opportunity. As such, in 1632, the two brothers, armed with their indomitable desire for fine writing, sailed to America, settling in the Dutch stronghold of Schenectady. Much as they had anticipated, their periodical proved wildly popular among the workers in the area. Priding themselves on the preservation of their unique culture and language, the brothers continued to publish in the Dutch language even after the British gained control of the area. Sadly, though, in 1657, due to a shrinking population of Dutch speakers and increased pressure from the British, the paper began publishing in English.
In retort to the British pressure, Haans and Jergen decided to take the paper in a completely new direction to further irate their oppressors: satirical journalism. While aggravating the prim and proper Englishmen, the Dutchmen enjoyed the paper’s sardonic wit. In 1795, the inaugural year of Union College, Haans tragically passed away.
Jergen, by this time wealthy and interested in philanthropy, felt the only fitting legacy for a paper of such magnitude was to donate its rights to the college, one of the foremost institutes of higher learning at the time. Therefore, in 1796, Union acquired The Dutch Oven and has been publishing it ever since, famously represented by the paper’s mascot, Dutch.
For those interested in continuing the proud Dutch tradition of satirical print journalism, meetings are held in our office on the fourth floor of Reamer every other Thursday at 8:30 p.m.
This article was written in the spirit of satirical journalism.