50 years ago

The celebration in 1975 was grand and impressive.

Many (former) habitants of Amsterdam can still remember it: the celebration of the city's 700th anniversary.


700 years of Amsterdam was celebrated in a big way in our city on 27 October 1975. Throughout the year there were events, exhibitions and performances dedicated to the city’s jubilee. Community centers and playgrounds were refurbished, all newborns received 700 dimes and all the sick received a fruit basket that day.

First let’s go back in timeā€¦ because what exactly do we celebrate on the anniversary of our city? On October 27, 1275, Floris V, Count of Holland, signed a toll privilege: a piece of goatskin parchment with a wax seal.

The toll privilege in which the city is first mentioned (Collection City Archives).

The birth of a city

The toll privilege is the oldest preserved document in which ‘Amestelledamme’ is mentioned for the first time. We see it as the birth certificate of the city of Amsterdam. That ‘birthday’ was celebrated for the first time in 1875. This city birthday was also celebrated in 1925. Since then a tradition was born. In 1975, the city’s birthday was celebrated in a big way for the first time, under the name ‘Amsterdam 700 years’.

Amsterdam 700 years

Archive research showed that from 1972 the first preparations for the celebration were made. The jubilee year was tumultuous: in the background played a recession, resistance against the metro and squatters’ riots. Nevertheless, the city council looked back on a successful celebration. A renewed pride in the city had arisen among habitants of Amsterdam, there was more solidarity in the neighborhoods and more international visitors and press managed to find Amsterdam. What happened in that year of 1975?

The GVB had several anniversary trams in 1975. Photo: Jan van der Stelt

First time SAIL

In honor of Amsterdam’s 700th anniversary, the Port of Amsterdam organized SAIL for the very first time. The idea was to experience the harbor image from earlier times. The city’s maritime fame was central. SAIL turned out to be a great success, attracting many (former) Amsterdam families. Since then, SAIL has returned to the city every 5 years.

Poster SAIL 1975 (collection Amsterdam Museum)

Treasury of the city

Also in the year that Amsterdam 700: The Amsterdam Historical Museum opened its doors in the building of the former orphanage at Kalverstraat 92. It became the city’s treasury: thousands of works of art and objects together tell the story of Amsterdam. In 2011, the name was changed to Amsterdam Museum. Because the museum is about the past, but also about the present and the future.

Queen Juliana opened the Amsterdam Historic Museum at the Kalverstraat
The first edition of Kwaku took place in 1975.

Start of Kwaku Festival

Kwaku started in 1975 as a small football tournament on the lawns between the high-rise buildings of the Bijlmer. A group of migrating Surinamese compatriots (Suriname would become independent on 25 November of that year) entertained young people who did not go on holiday. It turned out to be the birth of the annual Kwaku Festival. Football teams from all over the Netherlands came to enjoy the competition. But most of all people came to meet each other. And so the famous Kwaku atmosphere was created, plus a lively trade from the trunk with Surinamese snacks. The Kwaku festival expanded: in addition to football, there was also room for performances, beauty pageants, awards, debates and lectures. Kwaku Summer Festival is a grand celebration of cultural diversity and identity in the Zuidoost district of Amsterdam.

Mokum 700

An exhibition was held in the Europahal of the RAI: Mokum 700. Part of the historic center of the city – houses, bridges, lampposts, canals – had been recreated to full size. There were all kinds of stalls. Visitors could eat and drink at bars and restaurants that resembled real cafes and restaurants in the center of Amsterdam. Film screenings and lectures took place and artists performed typical Amsterdam rooted songs.

Mayor Samkalden takes a bite out of a huge birth cake, intended for parents of children born on October 27. The parents received a 700 cent book, the babies a savings account with 700 dimes (photo collection City Archives)

Also in that year: a special silver commemorative coin de Florijn was issued with the years 1275-1975 on it. The Municipal bank called ‘Gemeentegiro’ issued the ‘Amsterdam 700 cents book’, made by Jos Houweling. The photo album is full of wonderful street scenes.