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The Mayflower: Dimensions and Images

The exact dimensions of the Mayflower are unknown. No contemporary pictures, paintings, or detailed description of the Mayflower exist today. However, the ship is known to have had a burthen of 180-tons. From this fact, experts in 17th century merchant vessel construction have estimated the size of the Mayflower to have been about 113 feet long from the back rail to the end of the bowsprit beak. The keel was about 64 feet and a board width of about 25 feet. For a look at the interior of the Mayflower, see the

A Brief History of the Mayflower

The Mayflower is first recorded in 1609, at which time it was a merchant ship travelling to Baltic ports, most notably Norway1. It was at that time owned by Christopher Nichols, Richard Child, Thomas Short, and Christopher Jones2. The ship was about 180 tons3, and rested in Harwich. In its early years it was employed in the transportation of tar, lumber, and fish1,2; and possibly did some Greenland whaling4. Later on in its life, it became employed in Mediterranean wine and spice trading5.

In 1620, Thomas Weston assisted by John Carver and Robert Cushman hired the Mayflower and the Speedwell to undertake the voyage to plant a colony in Northern Virginia3. The Speedwell turned out to be a leaky ship, and so was unable to make the famous voyage with the Mayflower. 3

Christopher Jones was the captain of the Mayflower when it took the Pilgrims to New England in 1620. They anchored off the tip of Cape Cod on November 11, 1620. The Mayflower stayed in America that winter, and its crew suffered the effects of the first winter just as the Pilgrims did, with almost half dying.3

The Mayflower set sail for home on April 5, 1621, arriving back May sixth6,8. The ship made a few more trading runs, to Spain, Ireland, and lastly to France. However, Captain Christopher Jones died shortly thereafter, and was buried 5 March 1621/2 in Rotherhithe, Surrey, England7. The ship lay dormant for about two years, at which point it was appraised for probate, and its value was determined to be £128-08-04, an extremely low value (had it been in sailing condition, £700 could be expected).

This probate inventory is the last record of the Mayflower. The ship was not in very good condition, being called "in ruinis" in a 1624 High Court of Admiralty record (HCA 3/30, folio 227) written in Latin. Ships in that condition were more valuable as wood (which was in shortage in England at the time), so the Mayflower was most likely broken apart and sold as scrap. There is no evidence that the Mayflower ended up as the Jordans barn, though it has become a tourist trap anyway.

Mayflower was a very common ship name, and in fact numerous other ships called the Mayflower made trips to New England; but none of them were the same ship that brought the Pilgrims to America.

1. Public Records Office, High Court of Admiralty Examinations: Deposition of Thomas Haddon, 27 January 1609/10.

2. Public Records Office, High Court of Admiralty Examinations. Deposition of John Cowbridge and Thomas Thompson, 4 and 7 May, 1612.

3. William Bradford, Of Plymouth Plantation, written 1630-1654, original housed at Massachusetts State Library, Boston. (Available in the Mayflower Web Page bookstore).

4. Edward Winslow et al. Mourt's Relation: A Journal of the Pilgrims at Plymouth, London 1622. (Available in the Mayflower Web Page bookstore).

5. The 'Mayflower', Her Identity and Tonnage. The New England Historic and Genealogical Register, October 1916, pages 337-342.

6. Thomas Prince. Chronological History of New England in the Form of Annals. Boston, 1736.

7. Parish Registers of Burials: St. Mary's Church, Rotherhithe, Surrey, England.

8. John Smith. A General History of Virginia, New England, and the Summer Isles. London, 1624. (Available in the Mayflower Web Page bookstore).

The 'Mayflower'. The Mayflower Descendant 18:1-13. (R. G. Marsden)

The English Ancestry and Homes of the Pilgrim Fathers, by Charles Edward Banks, 1929, pages 10-22.

A 'Mayflower' Model. Mariner's Mirror 12:260-263. (R.C. Anderson)

Cooper, Winifred. Harwich, The Mayflower, and Christopher Jones. London 1970.
The Mayflower's Voyage

"The Mayflower at Sea" by Gilbert Margesson (1852-1940)
Painting Courtesy of: Pilgrim Hall Museum

DEPARTURE: The Mayflower left Plymouth, England on September 6, 1620

ARRIVAL: The Mayflower crew sighted land off Cape Cod on November 9, 1620, and first landfall was made November 11, 1620.

DISTANCE AND TIME: The voyage from Plymouth, England to Plymouth Harbor is about 2,750 miles, and took the Mayflower 66 days.

NUMBER OF PASSENGERS: The Mayflower left England with 102 passengers, including three pregnant women, and a crew of unknown number. While the Mayflower was at sea, Elizabeth Hopkins gave birth to a son which she named Oceanus. After the Mayflower had arrived and was anchored in Provincetown Harbor off the tip of Cape Cod, Susanna White gave birth to a son, which she named Peregrine (which means "one who has made a journey"). The Mayflower then sailed across the bay and anchored in Plymouth Harbor. There, Mary Allerton gave birth to a stillborn son. One passenger died while the Mayflower was at sea--a youth named William Butten, a servant-apprentice to Dr. Samuel Fuller. The death occurred just three days before land was sighted. One Mayflower crew member also died at sea, but his name is not known.

CONTEMPORARY ACCOUNTS OF THE VOYAGE: There is only one primary source account in existence that describes events that occurred while the Mayflower was at sea. It was written by William Bradford, in his History Of Plymouth Plantation. His account of the voyage, in its entirety, follows:
September 6. These troubles being blown over, and now all being compact together in one ship, they put to sea again with a prosperous wind, which continued divers days together, which was some encouragement unto them; yet according to the usual manner many were afflicted with sea sickness. And I may not omit here a special work of God's providence. There was a proud and very profane young man, one of the sea-men, of a lusty, able body, which made him the more haughty; he would always be condemning the poor people in their sickness, and cursing them daily with grievous execrations, and did not let to tell them, that he hoped to help to cast half of them overboard before they came to their journey's end, and to make merry with what they had; and if he were by any gently reproved, he would curse and swear most bitterly. But it pleased God before they came half seas over, to smite this young man with a grievous disease, of which he died in a desperate manner, and so was himself the first that was thrown overboard. Thus his curses light on his own head; and it was an astonishment to all his fellows, for they noted it to be the just hand of God upon him.
After they had enjoyed fair winds and weather for a season, they were encountered many times with cross winds, and met with many fierce storms, with which the ship was shroudly shaken, and her upper works made very leaky; and one of the main beams in the mid ships was bowed and cracked, which put them in some fear that the ship could not be able to perform the voyage. So some of the chief of the company, perceiving the mariners to fear the sufficiency of the ship, as appeared by their mutterings, they entered into serious consultation with the master and other officers of the ship, to consider in time of the danger; and rather to return then to cast themselves into a desperate and inevitable peril. And truly there was great distraction and difference of opinion among the mariners themselves; fain would they do what could be done for their wages sake, (being now half the seas over,) and on the other hand they were loath to hazard their lives too desperately. But in examining of all opinions, the master and others affirmed they knew the ship to be strong and firm under water; and for the buckling of the main beam, there was a great iron screw the passengers brought out of Holland, which would raise the beam into his place; the which being done, the carpenter and master affirmed that with a post put under it, set firm in the lower deck, and other-ways bound, he would make it sufficient. And as for the decks and upper works they would caulk them as well as they could, and though with the working of the ship they would not long keep staunch, yet there would otherwise be no great danger, if they did not overpress her with sails. So they committed themselves to the will of God, and resolved to proceed. In sundry of these storms the winds were so fierce, and the seas so high, as they could not bear a knot of sail, but were forced to hull, for divers days together. And in one of them, as they thus lay at hull, in a mighty storm, a lusty young man (called John Howland) coming upon some occasion above the gratings, was, with a seele of the ship thrown into the sea; but it pleased God that he caught hold of the topsail halyards, which hung overboard, and ran out at length; yet he held his hold (though he was sundry fathoms under water) till he was hauled up by the same rope to the brim of the water, and then with a boat hook and other means got into the ship again, and his life saved; and though he was something ill with it, yet he lived many years after, and became a profitable member both in church and commonwealth. In all this voyage their died but one of the passengers, which was William Butten, a youth, servant to Samuel Fuller, when they drew near the coast. But to omit other things, (that I may be brief,) after long beating at sea they fell with that land which is called Cape Cod; the which being made and certainly known to be it, they were not a little joyful. After some deliberation had amongst themselves and with the master of the ship, they tacked about and resolved to stand for the southward (the wind and weather being fair) to find some place about Hudson's River for their habitation. But after they had sailed that course about half a day, they fell amongst dangerous shoals and roaring breakers, and they were so far entangled therewith as they conceived themselves in great danger; and the wind shrinking upon them withal, they resolved to bear up again for the Cape, and thought themselves happy to get out of those dangers before night overtook them, as by God's providence they did. And the next day they got into the Cape-harbor where they rid in safety. A word or two by the way of this cape; it was thus first named by Captain Gosnold and his company, Anno. 1602, and after by Captain Smith was called Cape James; but it retains the former name amongst seamen. Also that point which first showed these dangerous shoals unto them, they called Point Care, and Tucker's Terror; but the French and Dutch to this day call it Malabar, by reason of those perilous shoals, and the losses they have suffered there.

Being thus arrived in a good harbor and brought safe to land, they fell upon their knees and blessed the God of heaven, who had brought them over the vast and furious ocean, and delivered them from all the perils and miseries thereof, again to set their feet on the firm and stable earth, their proper element. And no marvel if they were thus joyful, seeing wise Seneca was so affected with sailing a few miles on the coast of his own Italy; as he affirmed, that he had rather remain twenty years on his way by land, then pass by sea to any place in a short time; so tedious and dreadful was the same unto him.

Only one other contemporary account of the Mayflower's voyage exists, and though it was not written by a Mayflower passenger, it was written in 1624 by Captain John Smith (the same one rescued by Pocahontas), based on second hand information he had heard, or read in letters sent back to England. What Smith wrote follows (the spelling has not been modernized in this passage):
Upon these inducements some few well disposed Gentlemen and Merchants of London and other places provided two ships, the one of 160 Tunnes [the Mayflower], the other of 70 [the Speedwell]; they left the coast of England the 23 of August, with about 120 persons: but the next day the lesser ship sprung a leake, that forced their return to Plimmoth [England]: where discharging her and 20 passengers, with the great ship and a hundred persons besides sailers, they set saile againe the sixt of September, and the ninth of November fell with Cape James [Cape Cod]; but being pestered nine weeks in this leaking unwholesome ship, lying wet in their cabbins, most of them grew very weake, and weary of the sea.

The Mayflower Compact

The following is a very careful letter-for-letter and line-by-line transcription made by me of the Mayflower Compact, as it is found in the original page of William Bradford's History Of Plymouth Plantation. Keep in mind this is exactly as it was written by Bradford, as best as can be represented by modern-day computer characters. Most readers will be more familiar with one of the modernized versions of the Mayflower Compact, which can be found in just about any encyclopedia or almanac. If you wish to see a high resolution scan of Bradford's original, along with scans of known Pilgrim signatures, you can go to my extremely graphics-intensive Mayflower Compact page to view them.
In ye name of God Amen∑ We whose names are vnderwriten,
the loyall subjects of our dread soueraigne Lord King James
by ye grace of God, of great Britaine, franc, & Ireland king,
defender of ye faith, &c
Haueing vndertaken, for ye glorie of God, and aduancemente
of ye christian ^faith and honour of our king & countrie, a voyage to
plant ye first colonie in ye Northerne parts of Virginia∑ doe
by these presents solemnly & mutualy in ye presence of God, and
one of another, couenant, & combine our selues togeather into a
ciuill body politick; for ye our better ordering, & preseruation & fur=
therance of ye ends aforesaid; and by vertue hearof, to enacte,
constitute, and frame shuch just & equall lawes, ordinances,
Acts, constitutions, & offices, from time to time, as shall be thought
most meete & conuenient for ye generall good of ye colonie: vnto
which we promise all due submission and obedience. In witnes
wherof we haue herevnder subscribed our names at Cap=
Codd ye ∑11∑ of Nouember, in ye year of ye raigne of our soueraigne
Lord king James of England, france, & Ireland ye eighteenth
and of Scotland ye fiftie fourth. Ano: Dom ∑1620∑|

The Names of the Subscribers of the Mayflower Compact
As given by Nathaniel Morton (1669) and Thomas Prince (1736)

John Carver Edward Tilly Digery Priest
William Bradford John Tilly Thomas Williams
Edward Winslow Francis Cooke Gilbert Winslow
William Brewster Thomas Rogers Edmund Margeson
Isaac Allerton Thomas Tinker Peter Brown
Miles Standish John Ridgdale Richard Britteridge
John Alden Edward Fuller George Soule
Samuel Fuller John Turner Richard Clarke
Christopher Martin Francis Eaton Richard Gardiner
William Mullins James Chilton John Allerton
William White John Crackstone Thomas English
Richard Warren John Billington Edward Doten
John Howland Moses Fletcher Edward Leister
Stephen Hopkins John Goodman

History behind the Mayflower Compact
The Mayflower Compact was signed on 11 November 1620 on board the Mayflower which was at anchor in Provincetown Harbor. The Mayflower Compact was drawn up after the London and Leyden contingents started factionalizing, and there were worries of a possible mutiny by some of the passengers.

The primary argument was over the fact the Pilgrims were supposed to have settled in Northern Virginia, near present-day Long Island, New York. Northern Virginia was governed by the English. But if the Pilgrims settled at Plymouth, there would be no government in place there. The Mayflower Compact established that government, by creating a "civil body politic". In a way, this was the first American Constitution, though the Compact in practical terms had little influence on subsequent American documents. John Quincy Adams, a descendant of Mayflower passenger John Alden, does call the Mayflower Compact the foundation of the U.S. Constitution in a speech given in 1802, but he meant in principle more than in substance. In reality, the Mayflower Compact was superseded in authority by the 1621 Peirce Patent, which not only gave the Pilgrims the right to self-government at Plymouth, but had the significant advantage of being authorized by the King of England.

The Mayflower Compact was first published in 1622 in Mourt's Relation: A Journal of the Pilgrims at Plymouth. William Bradford wrote a copy of the Mayflower Compact down in his History Of Plymouth Plantation which he wrote from 1630-1654, and that is the version given above. Neither version gave the names of the signers. Nathaniel Morton in his New England's Memorial, published in 1669, was the first to record and publish the names of the signers, and Thomas Prince in his Chronological History of New England in the form of Annals (1736) recorded the signers names as well, as did Thomas Hutchinson in 1767. It is unknown whether the later two authors had access to the original document, or whether they were simply copying Nathaniel Morton's list of signers.

The original Mayflower Compact has never been found, and is assumed destroyed. Thomas Prince may have had access to the original in 1736, and possibly Thomas Hutchinson did in 1767. William Bradford's History, Letter-book, Register, and possibly the Mayflower Compact may have all fallen victim to Revolutionary War looting. Bradford's History was found in 1854 in London, England; his Letter-book in 1796 in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The Register and Mayflower Compact have never been located.

The term "Mayflower Compact" was not assigned to this document until 1793, when for the first time it is called the Compact in Alden Bradford's A Topographical Description of Duxborough, in the County of Plymouth. Previously it had been called "an association and agreement" (William Bradford), "combination" (Plymouth Colony Records), "solemn contract" (Thomas Prince, 1738), and "the covenant" (Rev. Charles Turner, 1774).


1. William Bradford. Of Plymouth Plantation, written between 1630 and 1654.

2. Edward Winslow and William Bradford. Mourt's Relation: A Journal of the Pilgrims at Plymouth, first published in 1622.

3. Nathaniel Morton. New England's Memorial. Cambridge, 1669.

4. Arthur Lord, "The Mayflower Compact", Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society, Volume 30, Part 2 (October 20, 1920), pp. 278-294.
Letter of William Bradford and Isaac Allerton
From Plymouth, 23 September 1623

This little-known letter written by William Bradford was found by R.G. Marsden in the Public Records Office in London, and first published in the American Historical Review, Volume 8 (1903):294-301. I have modernized the spelling and made some minor punctuation changes.
Beloved and kind friends.

We have received your letters both by the Anne and the James, which are both safely arrived here, thanks be to God, the Anne about the later end of July, and the James a fortnight after, and by them a large and liberal supply, for which together with your loving and honest letters we give you hearty thanks, being very sorry to hear of your losses and crosses, and how you have been turmoiled thereabout. If God had seen it good we should have been right glad it had come sooner, both for our good and your profit; for we have both been in a languishing state; and also fain to put away our furs at a small value to help us to some necessaries, without which notwithstanding we should have done full ill, yea indeed could have not subsisted; so as we have little or nothing to send you, for which we are not a little sorry; but if you knew how necessarily we were constrained too it, and how unwillingly we did it, we suppose you cannot at all blame us for it; we put away as much at one time and other of beaver as, if they had been saved together and sold at the best hand, would have yielded 3 or 4 hundred pounds; and yet those are nothing to those we have lost for want of means to gather them when the time was, which I fear will scarce ever be again, seeing the Dutch on one side and the French on the other side and the fishermen and other plantations between both, have and do furnish the savages, not with toys and trifles, but with good and substantial commodities, as ketkles, hatches, and clothes of all sorts; yea the French do store them with Biscay shallops fitted both with sails and oars, with which they can either row or sail as well as we; as also with pieces, powder and shot for fowling and other services; (we are informed that there are at this present a 100 men with 8 shallops coming from the eastward, to rob and spoil their neighbors westwards); also I know upon my own knowledge many of the Indians to be as well furnished with good ketkles, both strong and of a large size, as many farmers in England; yet notwithstanding we shall not neglect to use the best means we can with the pinnace and means we now have, both for trading or any other employment the best we can for both your and our advantage; but we are sorry that she is manned with so rude a crew of sailors; we hope the master is an honest man; and we find the captain to be a loving and courteous gentleman; yet they could not both of them rule them, so as we were fain to alter their conditions and agree with them for wages as well as we could; and this we did not only by the captain, and masters, together with Mr. Pierce's advice, but we saw we were of necessity constrained thereunto to prevent further mischief, which we saw would unavoidably ensue; for besides the endangering of the ship, they would obey no command, at least without continual