In order to ensure the safety of staff and guests, we've made modifications to our Museum experience in accordance with public guidance and health recommendations. Please be sure to review these protocols to prepare for your visit!
What to Expect, How to Prepare:
Frequently Asked Historical Questions about the original Mayflower and the arrival of the English colonists:
Frequently Asked Questions about Plimoth Plantation's Mayflower:
What to Expect, How to Prepare:
You will encounter costumed role players, modern-day staff, and maritime artisans, all eager to talk with you. On the seaward side of the ship, there are reproductions of the two boats that came to America with the original Mayflower. The smaller vessel is a ship's boat and the larger is a shallop (coastal working vessel). In 1621, the ship's boat returned with Mayflower to England while the shallop remained as the colonists’ first sailing craft.
Next to Plimoth Plantation's Mayflower, a dockside exhibit traces the history and origins of the ship's passengers, and describes the navigation techniques the crew used to find their way at sea. As you approach the ship, a collection of vintage photographs documents the construction of Plimoth Plantation's Mayflower in England and her 1957 Atlantic crossing.
You will meet costumed role players, modern-day staff and maritime artisans. The range of staff on the ship will provide you with a broad picture of the history of both the original Mayflower and Plimoth Plantation's reproduction ship. The role players, who are portraying Pilgrim passengers and members of Master Jones’s crew, will give you a personal, intimate view of 17th-century shipboard life and their reasons for leaving England. The modern-day staff, including the maritime artisans, can provide background on many historical topics.
Mayflower is a square-rigged vessel that is about 25 feet wide and 106 feet long, displacing 236 tons of water. She has four masts, including a mainmast, foremast, mizzen and sprit, with a total of six sails. You may walk around the main deck, orlop deck, and half deck.
Yes, Mayflower is a seaworthy sailing vessel. Since the year 2000, she has sailed to Providence, Rhode Island; Boston, Massachusetts and Provincetown, Massachusetts. She sailed Cape Cod Bay to celebrate her 50th anniversary in 2007. Mayflower has also visited several other ports on the East Coast since she first arrived in America in 1957.
Although it is possible that you will meet a role player portraying your ancestor, there were many more Mayflower passengers on board the original ship than we have role players. Even though your ancestor may not be portrayed, you might find that our staff, both those in costume and in modern-day clothing can provide you with some information on your great-great-great.....grandmother or grandfather!
Mayflower is not fully accessible. People with difficulty walking should be aware that there are ramps that can be steep according to the rise and fall of the tides. On the ship, there are also several flights of stairs to climb. However, those unable to board the ship may enjoy a close-up view of Mayflower from the dock, visit the dockside exhibit area, talk to modern crewmembers, and look at photographs of the interior of the ship.
For safety and accessibility reasons, strollers are not permitted on board. Strollers may be left in the dockside exhibit while you tour the ship.
Yes, we encourage you to take photographs or use video cameras for your own use. You need not ask permission of the staff to take pictures of Mayflower. Commercial use of photographs or video is prohibited without permission from our Public Relations office.
Frequently Asked Historical Questions about the original Mayflower:
No one knows for sure what happened to the original Mayflower. The last record of the ship was an assessment of her value in 1624. After that, she disappeared from maritime records. Several places in England claim to have a piece of the original ship, but there is no historical proof to support these claims.
On November 9, 1620, Mayflower's crew first sighted land off Cape Cod near the Wampanoag village of Pamet. The next day, the ship attempted to travel south around Cape Cod to the colonists' intended destination at the mouth of the Hudson River (present-day New York). Bad weather and dangerous shoals forced Mayflower's master to turn back. The ship made landfall on November 11 at the tip of Cape Cod (present-day Provincetown). After exploring the Cape Cod area for several weeks, the colonists finally decided to settle at present-day Plymouth.
Mayflower passengers lived on board anywhere from seven to nine months depending on when they joined the voyage and how soon they left the ship for shelter on land.
Two people died during the 1620 voyage of Mayflower. The first was a sailor whose name was not recorded. The second was a passenger, a young servant named William Butten. After the ship arrived many other passengers and sailors died of illness.
Three babies were born on Mayflower. While at sea, a boy aptly named Oceanus was born to the Hopkins family. After the ship arrived at Cape Cod, Susanna White gave birth to a son, Peregrine. Shortly thereafter, Mary Allerton gave birth to a stillborn son.
No. The last town the Pilgrims sailed from in England was Plymouth - a coincidence that leads people to assume that the Pilgrims gave the name Plymouth to their new home. But it was Captain John Smith, more famous for his exploits in Virginia, who mapped the New England coast in 1614. Smith gave a blank copy of his work to Prince Charles (who became King in 1625 after the death of his father, King James I & VI). Charles put English names on the map, including Plymouth and the Charles River. On that same map, Prince Charles gave the name 'Cape James' to the long hook of land extending east and south of Plymouth, but fishermen had dubbed the place 'Cape Cod' long before 1614, and the popular name stuck.
Entire books have been written on this subject, but we will attempt a brief answer here. People today are surprised that Colonial writers like William Bradford, John Winthrop and John Cotton could refer to America as "unpeopled." New England's heavily wooded landscape in the 17th-century was considered "vacant soyle" because to their eyes it was without the traditional English characteristics that identified land as settled and maintained. The forests, pastures, coasts and planting grounds had been inhabited by Native People for thousands of years, but their ways of farming and building were so radically different from English practice that to the Colonists the bulk of the land appeared empty and unused. According to the English legal tradition of "vacuum domicilium," (vacant dwelling) unimproved lands without clear title were available for the first occupant who would clear, build, garden, farm and permanently inhabit. Writing some years later in Boston, John Winthrop says, "we took [land] peacably, built a house upon it, and so it hath continued in our peaceable possession ever since without interruption or Claim... which being taken as vacuum domicilium give us a sufficient title against all men."
We know that not everyone at the time subscribed to this view because Robert Cushman, a member of the Pilgrim church at Leiden and also the Colonists' business agent in London, wrote a letter in 1622, in which he writes: “But some will say, what right have I to go live in the heathens’ country?” His response regarding “the lawfulness of removing out of England into the parts of America” illustrates the ‘empty dwelling’ view: “when I seriously consider of things I cannot but think that God hath a purpose to give that land as an inheritance to our nation, and great pity it were that it should long lie in so desolate a state." He continues "…their land is spacious and void… all spoils, rots, and is marred for want of manuring, gathering, ordering, etc. As the ancient patriarchs therefore removed themselves from straighter places into more roomy, where the land lay idle and waste, and none used it, though there dwelt inhabitants by them…so it is lawful now to take a land which none useth, and make use of it."
For thousands of years before the English Colonists built their town, the Pokanoket village of Patuxet had been there. From 1616-1618, most of the people who lived in Patuxet died in an epidemic most likely contracted from contact with European fishermen and traders. The few survivors of the sickness left Patuxet for other villages. This made it especially easy for the English Colonists to lay claim to the hillside in the midst of the Wampanoag homeland.
While not mentioned in the books by Bradford and Winslow, the history of world-famous Plymouth Rock, known as the 'Landing Place of the Pilgrims.' comes to us as part of Plymouth's oral history. In 1835, in his book History of the Town of Plymouth, James Thatcher writes of Plymouth Rock:
The fact of its identity has been transmitted from father to son, particularly in the instance of Elder Faunce and his father, as would be the richest inheritance, by unquestionable tradition. About the year 1741, it was represented to Elder Faunce that a wharf was to be erected over the rock, which impressed his mind with deep concern, and excited a strong desire to take a last farewell of the cherished object. He was then ninety-five years old.…Having pointed out the rock directly under the bank of Cole’s Hill, which his father had assured him was that, which had received the footsteps of our fathers on their first arrival, and which should be perpetuated to posterity, he bedewed it with his tears and bid to it an everlasting adieu. These facts were testified to by the late venerable Deacon Spooner, who was then a boy and was present on the interesting occasion. Tradition says that Elder Faunce was in the habit on every anniversary, of placing his children and grand-children on the rock, and conversing with them respecting their forefathers. Standing on this rock, therefore, we may fancy a magic power ushering us into the presence of our fathers. Where is the New Englander who would be willing to have that rock buried out of sight and forgotten? The hallowed associations which cluster around that precious memorial inspire us with sentiments of the love of our country, and a sacred reverence for its primitive institutions.
The Rock’s reputation grew after the American Revolution, when it became a powerful symbol of liberty for the young Nation. When you visit the ship, stop by the Rock and learn more about its history, it's located just steps from Mayflower.
On November 11, 1620, before they went ashore on Cape Cod, the male Mayflower passengers made an agreement to join together as a “civil body politic.” They also agreed to submit to the government which would be chosen by common consent, and to obey all laws made for the common good of the colony. To read more about the Mayflower Compact and view the original text of the document, please visit our Mayflower and Mayflower Compact page. Click here to view the document in William Bradford's hand.
Frequently Asked Questions about Plimoth Plantation's Mayflower:
Mayflower was built from 1955-57 in the town of Brixham, in Devon, England by the skilled shipwrights at the Upham Shipyard.
Donations from the English people financed the construction of Plimoth Plantation's Mayflower. The project was the brainchild of Englishman Warwick Charlton. Mr. Charlton wanted to commemorate the historic ties between England and America, which were strengthened during World War II. Plimoth Plantation agreed to maintain and exhibit Mayflower once she reached the United States.
One of the most notable differences is the large modern staircase between the main deck and the lower decks. (In the 17th century, ladders were used). Electric lights illuminating the dark corners of the lower deck were also not standard in the 1600s! There were other minor modifications made to Mayflower to make sure that she would be more accessible, safe and comfortable for the visiting public.
Commander Alan Villiers, D.S.C. - Master
Godfrey Wicksteed- First Mate
Adrian Small - Second Mate
Captain Jan Junker- Third Mate
Stuart Upham- Master Builder
Ike Marsh- Bos'n
Warwick Charlton- Project Manager
A. Anderson Bell
Charles F. Church
F. E. Edwards
M. J. Ford
John L. Goddard
Walter Godfrey- Cook
J. D. Horrocks- Wireless Operator
Andrew J. Lindsay
Joseph M. Meany Jr.
Edgar Mugridge- Ship's Carpenter
P. L. N. Padfield
H. C. Sowerby
Dr. John Stevens- Surgeon-Seaman
D. C. Thorpe
A/Sub. Lt. John Winslow
Cameramen- Lee Israel and Julian Lugrin
representing Life Magazine-
Maitland Edey and Gordon Tenney
and "Felix"- Ship's Cat