NYC Streets

Spellings and Misspellings

Names dating from the colonial period or the early republic often have multiple spellings. In part this reflects the interaction between Dutch and English; and in part that neither language had yet arrived at a standard written form. There is also the fact that, in a rather raw colonial society, responsibility for public record-keeping often fell to people with relatively little formal education.

Even after the advent of dictionaries and free public schools, there was still rich opportunity for human error. Maps, documents and ordinary letters were copied by hand; and type was set by hand, by men toiling long hours in poorly lit rooms. Their work may have been proofread, but errors in names are less obvious than errors in ordinary words and thus more likely to be perpetuated. Several of the "former names" listed by Post are obvious copying or typesetting errors, and a few more are probably so. He dutifully recorded them all. For example, Vanderdisses Street for Vandercliffe's Street, Bousal's Wharf for Bonsal's Wharf, and Thomas Street for Thames Street.

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