The Mayflower

Donna Adamski

Joined August 2008

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The Mayflower was the famous ship that transported the English Separatists, better known as the Pilgrims, from Southampton, England, to Plymouth, Massachusetts (which would become the capital of Plymouth Colony), in 1620.

The vessel left England on September 6 (Old Style)/September 16 (New Style) and after a grueling 66-day journey marked by disease, which claimed two lives, the ship dropped anchor inside the hook tip of Cape Cod (Provincetown Harbor) on November 11/November 21. The Mayflower was originally destined for the mouth of the Hudson River, near present-day New York City, at the northern edge of England’s Virginia colony, which itself was established with the 1607 Jamestown Settlement. However, the Mayflower went off course as the winter approached, and remained in Cape Cod Bay. On March 21/28, 1621, all surviving passengers, who had inhabited the ship during the winter, moved ashore at Plymouth, and on April 5/15, the Mayflower, a privately commissioned vessel, returned to England. In 1623, a year after the death of captain Christopher Jones, the Mayflower was most likely dismantled for scrap lumber in Rotherhithe, London.

The Mayflower has a famous place in American history as a symbol of early European colonization of the future US. With their religion oppressed by the English Church and government, the small party of religious separatists who comprised about half of the passengers on the ship desired a life where they could practice their religion freely. This symbol of religious freedom resonates in US society and the story of the Mayflower is a staple of any American history textbook. Americans whose roots are traceable back to New England often believe themselves to be descended from Mayflower passengers.

The main record for the voyage of the Mayflower and the disposition of the Plymouth Colony comes from William Bradford who was a guiding force and later the governor of the colony.

The Mayflower was used primarily as a cargo ship, involved in active trade of goods (often wine) between England and other European countries, (principally France, but also Norway, Germany, and Spain). At least between 1609 and 1622, it was mastered by Christopher Jones, who would command the ship on the famous transatlantic voyage, and based in Rotherhithe, London, England. After the famous voyage of the Mayflower, the ship returned to England, likely dismantled for scrap lumber in Rotherhithe in 1623, only a year after Jones’ death in March 1622. The Mayflower Barn, just outside the Quaker village of Jordans, in Buckinghamshire, England, is said to be built from these timbers, but this is likely apocryphal.

Details of the ship’s dimensions are unknown; but estimates based on its load weight and the typical size of 180-ton merchant ships of its day suggest an estimated length of 90–110 feet (27.4–33.5 m) and a width of about 25 feet (7.6 m).

The ship probably had a crew of twenty-five to thirty, along with other hired personnel; however, only the names of five are known, including John Alden. William Bradford, who penned our only account of the Mayflower voyage, wrote that John Alden “was hired for a cooper [barrel-maker], at South-Hampton, where the ship victuled; and being a hopefull yong man, was much desired, but left to his own liking to go or stay when he came here; but he stayed, and maryed here.” Wikipedia

Nikon D70s
18-50mm
F5.6, 1/125
1/16/09 – 372/62

Featured in Knick Knacks – 1/09

Artwork Comments

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