Wednesday, November 25, 2009


It is Thanksgiving time here in the US and where would we be without the Mayflower?  The ship brought 102 pilgrims to Plimoth (later Plymouth). There is an interactive page on the Mayflower and the first Thanksgiving aimed at kids here.

A little more history describing the origin of the ship and the financing of the voyage can be found here, here and here.

More serious readers should check out Nathaniel Philbrick's excellent book Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War.  The book goes much beyond the 65 day crossing as it discusses the politics, religion and sociology of the settlement.  The colony had provocative interactions with both the local Indians and neighboring colonies.  It is still surprising the degree of influence these Puritans had on American culture and values up to this day.

As for the ship itself, it was a 90 to 110 foot cargo and wine carrier in so, so condition.  It turned out the be far better equipped for the journey that the Speedwell, another ship used by the Puritans.  The ship had a crew of about thirty, that included John Alden. John Alden's son of the same name was later accused in the Salem witch trials.  It is unclear whether these gentlemen were any relation to the naval architect of the same name from Boston.

In any case, I have found this facinating story to be, as usual, a bit more complicated than I was taught in school.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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