Less than an hour from Boston, you can see historic Plimoth Plantation, a living recreation of the community that the Pilgrims created along the shore at Plymouth, Massachusetts.
Plimoth is an old-fashioned spelling that Governor William Bradford used in his history of the colony. The museum uses the spelling to differentiate it from the nearby town of Plymouth.
Plimoth Plantation includes a recreation of what the 17th-century village that the Pilgrims built along the shore of Plymouth Harbor would have been like in the year 1627. Timber-framed houses are furnished with reproductions of objects that the Pilgrims would have owned. Rare breeds of sheep, goats, cows, pigs and fowl roam the village. Costumed role players tell you what it would have been like for those who lived in Plymouth Colony.
At the Wampanoag Homesite, located on the banks of the Eel River, you can learn how the 17th-century Wampanoag Indians would have planted their crops, fished, gathered herbs and berries for food, and made baskets out of reeds. You can see examples of their homes, known as wetus, and watch actual Wampanoags or other Native People dressed in historically accurate clothing cook food over an open fire and hollow out trees to make boats.
In the craft center, you can watch modern-day craftspeople using 17th-century tools and techniques to create reproductions of furniture, pottery and clothes. It’s also the source for “New Plimoth Worsted,” Plimoth Plantation’s line of wool that is spun into yarn in Harrisville New Hampshire and dyed to create colors produced using natural dyestuffs that would have been used in the 17th century. The yarn is given period color names, such as Carnation, Skie, Woad, Rat’s Colour and Goose Turd.
On the Plymouth waterfront, explore Mayflower II, a full-scale replica of a typical merchant ship of the size and type of the Mayflower that carried the Pilgrims crossed the Atlantic in 1620. The replica was built in 1955 in Brixham, England using historically appropriate tools and techniques. Mayflower II crossed the Atlantic under Captain Alan Villiers in 1957.
You can come aboard the ship and see its tight quarters as role players in period costume and modern-day staff share details about the Mayflower II and its voyage from England.
You’ll also hear about Felix, the ship’s kitten, who made the voyage wearing his own life jacket and rested on a coil of rope on the deck. At the museum shops at Plimoth Plantation and the Mayflower II, you can adopt your own life-jacketed Felix and purchase Felix and His Mayflower II Adventures, a chapter book for children by Peter Arenstam.
To learn more about Mayflower II, read: The Second Mayflower Adventure, by Warwick Charlton; The New Mayflower: Her Design and Construction, by William A. Baker; and Mayflower 1620: A New Look at a Pilgrim Voyage, by Plimoth Plantation. “We’re Coming Over on the Mayflower: In a Dramatic Good-Will Gesture, Britishers Built a New Pilgrim Ship to Sail Across the Sea as a Gift to All Americans,” is an article by Alan Villiers in the May 1957 issue of National Geographic. Villiers also wrote “How We Sailed the New Mayflower to America: Why Did Mayflower II Take the Long Southern Route? What Were the Risks She Ran? Her Skipper Reveals the Answers,” for the November 1957 issue of National Geographic. The voyage was also covered in “Mayflower Sails Into Today,” an article in the June 17, 1957 issue of Life.
For Thanksgiving, Plimoth Plantation is offering three 17th-century theme dining options. On selected dates in November, you can sit down to a “groaning board” with residents of Plimoth Plantation and feast on mussels, corn pudding, stewed pompion, roasted pork, fish, cider and other fare that would have been served in 1627. On Thanksgiving Day, you can have either a buffet or a classic Thanksgiving dinner while Pilgrim role players and native interpreters share music, stories and a 17th-century toast. If traveling to Plymouth isn’t on your Thanksgiving itinerary, check out a copy of The Plimoth Plantation New England Cookery Book, by Malabar Hornblower.
Four other things are worth seeing in Plymouth. The National Monument to the Forefathers is almost as tall as the Statue of Liberty. The central figure of the monument, “Faith,” is surrounded by allegorical figures depicting Pilgrim virtues, including liberty, morality, law and education. Other marble reliefs on the monument represent scenes from Pilgrim history.
Cyrus Dallin’s sculpture of Massasoit, the leader of the Wampanoag, stands near Plymouth Rock…
…while his sculpture of Governor William Bradford is at the Pilgrim Hall Museum.
The Pilgrim Hall Museum houses a collection of Pilgrim possessions, including William Bradford’s Bible, Myles Standish’s sword, the only portrait of a Pilgrim painted from life, the cradle of New England’s first-born baby, Peregrine White, William Brewster’s great chair, and the earliest sampler made in America, embroidered by Myles Standish’s teenaged daughter, Loara, around 1653.
A card table with a needlework top embroidered circa 1750-1770 by Mercy Otis Warren (1728-1814) is also in the museum’s collection. The petit point top depicts a game of “Loo,” complete with cards and mother-of-pearl counters in the shape of fish. The table has round corners, which were designed to hold candles, and the top could be folded when the table was not in use. To see images of the table from the Pilgrim Hall Museum website, click here.
A native of Barnstable, Massachusetts, Mercy moved to Plymouth when she married James Warren. In addition to being a talented needleworker, she wrote plays, poetry and a three-volume history of the American Revolution. To learn more about her, read The Muse of the Revolution: The Secret Pen of Mercy Otis Warren and the Founding of a Nation, by Nancy Rubin Stuart and Write On, Mercy!: The Secret Life of Mercy Otis Warren, by Gretchen Woelfle.
Women’s Work: Embroidery in Colonial Boston, by Pamela A. Parmal, includes a chapter on Hannah Otis, Mercy’s sister. “Pictures in Thread” describes a chimneypiece that Hannah embroidered that features a colonial scene of Boston Common and the home of Thomas Hancock, located at the foot of Beacon Hill. Chimneypieces were shaped to fit over a fireplace, usually depicted pastoral scenes, and were popular pieces for schoolgirls to work.