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Plymouth Rock

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Plymouth Rock is the traditional site of disembarkation of William Bradford and the Mayflower Pilgrims who founded Plymouth Colony in December 1620. The Pilgrims did not refer to Plymouth Rock in any of their writings; the first known written reference to the rock dates to 1715 when it was described in the town boundary records as “a great rock.” The first documented claim that Plymouth Rock was the landing place of the Pilgrims was made by Elder Thomas Faunce in 1741, 121 years after the Pilgrims arrived in Plymouth. From that time to the present, Plymouth Rock has occupied a prominent spot in American tradition and has been interpreted by later generations as a symbol of both the virtues and the flaws of the first English people who colonized New England.

In 1774, the rock broke in half during an attempt to haul it to Town Square in Plymouth. One portion remained in Town Square and was moved to Pilgrim Hall Museum in 1834. It was rejoined with the other portion of the rock, which was still at its original site on the shore of Plymouth Harbor, in 1880. The rock is now ensconced beneath a granite canopy designed by McKim, Mead & White.

Plymouth Rock Early history and identification

The two most significant primary sources on the founding of Plymouth Colony are Edward Winslow’s 1622 Mourt’s Relation and Bradford’s 1630–1651 history Of Plymouth Plantation, and neither refers to Plymouth Rock. The rock first attracted public attention in 1741 when the residents of Plymouth began plans to build a wharf which would bury it. Before construction began, a 94-year-old church elder named Thomas Faunce declared that the boulder was the landing place of the Mayflower Pilgrims. He asked to be brought to the rock to say a farewell. According to Plymouth historian James Thacher:

Faunce’s father had arrived in the colony aboard the ship Anne in 1623, just two years after the Mayflower landing, and Elder Faunce was born in 1647 when many of the Mayflower Pilgrims were still living, so his assertion made a strong impression on the people of Plymouth. The wharf was built but the rock left intact, the top portion protruding from the dirt so as to be visible to curious visitors.

More recent generations have questioned Faunce’s assertion, alleging that he invented the story or did not have the correct facts, given that he was not an eyewitness to the event. Journalist Bill Bryson, for example, wrote, “The one thing the Pilgrims certainly did not do was step ashore on Plymouth Rock”, arguing that the boulder would have made an impractical landing spot. Others have pointed out that the Pilgrims landed at Provincetown to explore Cape Cod more than a month before they arrived in Plymouth harbor, which lessens the significance of where they set foot in Plymouth. In 1851, a group of Cape Cod residents formed the Cape Cod Association for the purpose of promoting Provincetown as the site of the original Pilgrim landing. Such efforts eventually led to the construction of the Pilgrim Monument in Provincetown, which was completed in 1910.

Plymouth Rock citation needed


Captain William Coit wrote in the Pennsylvania Journal of November 29, 1775, that he brought captive British sailors ashore “upon the same rock our ancestors first trod.”[citation needed]

A large portion of the rock was relocated from Plymouth’s meetinghouse to Pilgrim Hall in 1834. In 1859, the Pilgrim Society began building a Victorian canopy designed by Hammett Billings at the wharf over the portion of the rock left there, which was completed in 1867. The Pilgrim Hall section of the rock was moved back to its original wharf location in 1880, rejoined to the remaining portion, and the date “1620” was carved into it.

In 1920 the rock was temporarily relocated so that the old wharves could be removed and the waterfront re-landscaped to a design by landscape architect Arthur Shurcliff, with a waterfront promenade behind a low seawall in such a way that, when the rock was returned to its original site, it would be at water level. The care of the rock was turned over to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and a new Roman Doric portico was constructed, designed by McKim, Mead and White for viewing the tide-washed rock protected by gratings.

During the rock’s many journeys throughout the town of Plymouth, numerous pieces were taken, bought, and sold. Today approximately ​13 remains. It is estimated that the original Rock weighed 20,000 lb (9,100 kg). Some documents indicate that tourists or souvenir hunters chipped it down, although no pieces have been noticeably removed since 1880. Today there are pieces in Pilgrim Hall Museum and in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

A 40-pound (18 kg) piece of the Rock is set on a pedestal in the cloister of historic Plymouth Church of the Pilgrims in Brooklyn Heights, New York. The church was formed by a merger of Plymouth Church and Church of the Pilgrims and was originally pastored by Henry Ward Beecher, brother of author Harriet Beecher Stowe.

In 1835, French author Alexis de Tocqueville wrote:

Plymouth Rock 20th century

Cole Porter makes a comic allusion to Plymouth Rock in the title song of the 1934 musical Anything Goes, imagining that, if Puritans were to object to “shocking” modern mores, instead “of landing on Plymouth Rock, Plymouth Rock would land on them.” Malcolm X repeated the imagery in a speech on black nationalism: “We didn’t land on Plymouth Rock. The rock was landed on us.”

Plymouth Rock has figured prominently in American Indian politics in the United States, particularly as a symbol of wars starting with King Philip’s War (1675–1678), known as the First Indian War. It has been ceremoniously buried twice by Indian rights activists, once in 1970 and again in 1995, as part of National Day of Mourning protests.

Plymouth Rock Current status

Today, Plymouth Rock is managed by the Department of Conservation and Recreation for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts as part of Pilgrim Memorial State Park. From April through November, Pilgrim Memorial is staffed by guides who inform visitors of the history of Plymouth Rock.

Plymouth Rock Panorama

  • National Register of Historic Places listings in Plymouth County, Massachusetts

Plymouth Rock References

  • Arner, Robert, “Plymouth Rock Revisited: The Landing of the Pilgrim Fathers”, Journal of American Culture 6, no. 4, Winter 1983, pp. 25–35.
  • Bill Bryson (1998). Made In America. Black Swan. ISBN 9780552998055.
  • Davis, Samuel, “Notes on Plymouth”, Massachusetts Historical Society Collections, vol. 3, 2nd ser., 1815.
  • McPhee, John, “Travels of the Rock”, The New Yorker, February 26, 1990, pp. 108–117.
  • Northrup, Dale (1996). Frommer’s New England 1996. Macmillan USA. OCLC 34328103.permanent dead link]
  • Francis Russell (October 1962). “The Pilgrims and The Rock”. American Heritage. 13 (6).
  • Seelye, John (1998). Memory’s Nation: The Place of Plymouth Rock. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press. ISBN 9780807865934.
  • Thacher, James (1832). History of the town of Plymouth: from its first settlement in 1620 to the year 1832. Boston: Marsh, Capen & Lyon. OCLC 317695485.
  • U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Plymouth Rock
  • “Plymouth Rock”. Pilgrim Hall Museum. 2005-05-18.

Plymouth Rock biography Net worth, Details Reference

  • Pilgrim Memorial State Park
Updated: April 22, 2020 — 11:19 pm

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