The Inconsistent Mythology Around a Race That Gave New York the Rights to Staten Island Over New Jersey

Upon reading a Wikipedia article that explained how New York won the rights to Staten Island over New Jersey by a boat race, a dogged CGP Grey decided to seek further evidence about said race.

He first contacted the Conference House on Staten Island to learn more. He also consulted numerous books, bibliographies, and newspapers, but never really got the confirmation he needed to verify the myth.

Grey had previously posted about the battle between the two states over the rights to the Statue of Liberty , so the animus over another harbor island didn’t seem too surprising, but nothing added up.

Grey then travelled to New York from his Los Angeles home to seek out missing information at the New York Public Library and even travelled out to Staten Island to confront the museum staff that had been ignoring his pleading emails. Unfortunately, the museum was closed that day and Grey was left with nothing but a myth. An entertaining myth, but a myth nonetheless.

New York proposed a race all islands that could be encircled in less than 24 hours would belong to New York not to New Jersey. Staten Island was the big prize then described as the most commodious and richest land. New Jersey wanted it and given the island is huge and back in the day boats were slow, New Jersey thought the island impossible to encircle in under a day and so it would be hers but young New York determined to expand her empire states thought she had the man for the job Captain Christopher Billopp. The clever captain lashed empty barrels to his ship to help catch the wind and make haste and it was this that made the difference, winning the race against time and encircling the most commodious island of Staten for New York in just over 23 hours.

New York v New Jersey Staten Island

Lori Dorn
Lori Dorn

Lori is a Laughing Squid Contributing Editor based in New York City who has been writing blog posts for over a decade. She also enjoys making jewelry, playing guitar, taking photos and mixing craft cocktails.