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Washington’s Mementoes of the rims
Rare Boohs Written by People of the Plymouth Colony, Historical Pictures and Museum Ex m hibits — Famous Painting in Ro tunda of the Capi tol—Model of the Mayflozver. BY VICTORIA FABER STEVENSON. THE National Capital bridges over the 313 years which have elapsed since the landing of the Pilgrims by dis playing its prized mementoes. Wash ington book lovers are delighted at being able to actually see and use rare books in the Library of Congress which were written by the people of the Plymouth Colony while it was being settled. Historical pictures, museum exhibits of Both the Pilgrims and the Massachusetts Indians, bulletins on the almost unknown Indians friendly to the New England white men. as well as a model of the Mayflower, In which the Pilgrims made their first voyage, brings the events of the Plymouth Colony before the eyes of the people of Washington. Probably the most widely studied painting of Pilgrim times hangs in the rotunda of the Capitol. That huge canvas, ' The Embarkation of the Pilgrims,” is well known throughout the Nation. Hundreds of thousands of visitors to Washington have seen It. Others know It through numberless prints and engraved copies which have been made. Back in 1837, nearly a century ago, Congress arranged for its paint ing. The fact that it was not hung for nearly 10 years might indicate that the artist took adequate time for research to make the picture historically correct. Critics who complain that the painting shows a gloomy party might be reminded that the Pilgrims, who were not exactly given to real merriment, had little to be joyful about when they left Holland on the Speedwell. They are shown sailing from Delft Haven on the first lap of their long voyage to America, which portended great hazards. Robert Weir pictured their deeply religious spirit and the fervor with which their pastor prayed for divine protection ttOC guidance lor that part of his congregation which had chosen to exile Itself to the wilder ness of the New World. INASMUCH as the Pilgrims of 1620 left no detailed description of their ship, the artist pictured the Speedwell as a typical ship of that day. As Robert Weir had no undisputed passenger list of pilgrims who sailed on that 22d day of July. 1620, for Southampton, nor scarcely any portraiture to copy except that which was traditional, he represented the most Important men of the society and clothed them In apparel characteristic of the Pilgrims of that time. Like other large canvases In the rotunda, Weir’s was painted to perpetuate a page in history, it was intended not only to tell of an event, but to give posterity a picture of the personages who took part by delineating their characters, appearances and dress. In order to accomplish that purpose the painter used his imagination as well as what authoritative material he could procure. Thus, Hose Standish is made beautiful and her husband, the military aide of the exiles, who wears part of his armor, is given a stem expression. The key of the picture, which hangs near the painting, identi fies Pastor Robinson, who sailed with his flock only as far as England; Elder Brewster, Gov. Carver, Miles Standish, Mr. Fuller, Mr. White and Mr. Winslow, the leading men who con tinued on their journey to America. Seven Pilgrim mothers and six children are also shown among the other Speedwell passengers. The artist, who received $10,000 for this picture when it was hung in 1847, was called upon to repair it in 1861. By that time it had been seriously injured, like the other rotunda paint ings, while the new Capitol dome was being X built. The sculpture by Enrico Causicl In Uie rotunda of the Capitol shows the landing of the Pilgrims. That bas-relief was placed in the old Capitol in 1826. In ah probability many Capitol visitors failed to see the painting of Elder Brewster by Constantino Brumidi, a ceiling fresco in the President’s room in the Senate wing of the building. Those who recall that that spiritual adviser gave long service to the Plymouth Colony realize his importance in the history of the early settlers. Tourists throng the old'museum to see Col. Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis, whose flying time over the Atlantic Ocean was measured by hours. It is doubtful if many visitors know that the model of the Mayflower is encased but a short distance away from the airplane. That historic ship of 300 years ago took nearly four months to cross the same ocean. The Mayflower “Embarkation of the Pilgrims,” from original painting by Robert W. JFeir._pb0toer»ph br H*ndr statkM itself was given such little notice in Its time that Gov. Bradford, who wrote of its voyage day by day. failed to mention the ship by name or to give any description of it. As the model was made after studied calculations and shows a typical three-mast ship of that day, authori ties agree that it is a true miniature. EARLY writers called the Mayflower a wet ship because its voyagers were often an noyed by water seeping through it into their sleeping quarters from leaks caused by beating storms. Its galley is pointed out as the place where the Pilgrims prepared their food. His torical authorities tell that the meals during the voyage were cooked in tripod kettles, bake kettles and frying pans over fires built in hearth boxes spread with sand to prevent conflagrations. These were set up in various parts of the ship and were used by the differ ent families, who cooked their own rations. Records hint that such foods as dried fish and dried meats were given little more than a warming. Cabbages and turnips are said to have been cooked in quantities, and had there been any potatoes they, too. would have been boiled in the same way. When the visitor looks at the model of the ship, which was said by different authorities to be of 120 or 180 tannage, he decides that the 100 Pilgrim pa&.ngers must have had an expert packing committee to get all of their supplies in its hold. The boat, which was leas than 100 feet long, not only carried food to last many months, but clothing, furniture, household supplies, arms for defense, tools for farming, implements and material for building their homes, and a shallop made famous as a landing boat. Live stock at goats, swine and poultry were cared for on the ship as well as two dogs. Descrip tive accounts also tell that three large anchors were carried. The ship's defense against pirates consisted of several large mounted guns, , which probably were placed later on at the fort in old Plymouth. Most of the nautical appliances of the May flower would be obsolete today. The compass box and hanging compass which it carried were much the same, however, as today's equipment. No radical improvement in such ship furnish ing has been made since. Capt. Jones brought the Mayflower across the ocean. Washingtonians do not generally realize that they may study five historical pictures of the Pilgrims at the Smithsonian. Those colorful paintings presented to the Government by their artist, J. L. G. Perris, are regarded as con spicuous In historical detail. The painter has depicted such scenes as the "Signing of the Compact.'' the "First Sermon Ashore,’’ the •'First Thanksgiving,'’ the "Return of the May flower to England,’’ and the "Return of Miles Standish to Plymouth.’’ The first picture revives interest in the compact. Just what became of the original document, which was the formal signed agreement which the Pilgrims made amongst themselves before they landed, is a mystery. Its text, however, has survived and its signers are known. The “First Sermon Ashore” is a reminder that for a time after the Pilgrims reached Plymouth they lived on their ship. Later their "common house” provided sleeping quarters and a place for religious services. THE "First Thanksgiving" recalls that man* • date of Gov. Carver that the Colony should set aside a season for thanksgiving to Almighty God for the blessings the people had enjoyed during their first year in America. Penis’ picture, the "Return of the Mayflower," shows the Pilgrims thoughtfully watching their only ship sail back to England. They knew not when another would be in their harbor. When one looks at the picture showing the "Return of Miles St an dish to the Colony in 1626,” he wonders just what was the first piece of news Standish gave from England. The youth of Washington who are curious to know what kind of stone ornaments Squanto and Chief Massasoit, the friends of the Pil grims. wore may see gorgets and bannerstones True model of the Mayflower, in naval court of division of history, National Museum. at the Smithsonian. The polished gotvets, which are round or elongated stones, have holes bored through them so the warriors could wear them on their arms or legs as decorations. The bannerstones, which were symbols of au thority, are shaped something like butterflies »nri were also bored with holes so that long handles could be put through them when they were carried as banners in ceremonials. The highly polished slate knives which the Plymouth Indians used for cutting the skins of animals and the large round stones used for net link ers and the small conical stones used for lins sinkers by the Massachusetts Indians, are also on display. Dr. Walter Hough, head curator of anthropology at the National Museum, at tributes the scarcity of New England Indian relics partly to the fact that those Indians did not preserve their treasures In burial mounds. Though but few relics of the Pilgrims hATe survived through the years the Colonial Dames of America have a section of a quilt from okl Plymouth on exhibition at the old Dumbarton House. Hie Society of Mayflower descendant* at the District of Columbia perpetuates the memory of the Pilgrim Fathers. It publishes a Urt ol Mayflower passengers from whom descent may be proved. If it had quoted from the last re port of the General Society of the Mayflower, it would have named Elder Brewster as having had 2.489 descendants filed with the society, which Is the greatest number tracing their ancestry back to any one Mayflower passenger. Washington's most valuable and most his* toric memento of the Pilgrims is a true relic found in the rare book division of the Library of Congress. The seriously minded student- of Pilgrim history experiences a real thrill when he 1* handed one of the few original copies left in the world of "Mourts Relations." V. Valta Parma, in charge of that division, keeps the book under lock and key for he guards against any possible loss of the volume, which has survived three centuries of real usefulness. “Mourts Relations” has nothing to do with kinfolks, as its name might imply, but it is a relation or a narration “of the beginning and proceeding 'of the English Plantation settled at Plymouth in New England and certain English Adventurers both merchant and others* The small volume of 72 pages printed in Lon* don in 1622 was written by George Morton, whose wife was the sister of Gov. Bradford'* wife of Plymouth. As a source book of Pilgrim history it is priceless, though its sale value has been reckoned as over $4,000. Goodspeed s catalogue of rare American books declares that it is “the chief corner stone of the library of Americana.” Among other questions which the book has settled is the date of Forefathers’ day. November 11. For over 100 yearn tha wrong date was celebrated because the reader* of the book did not notice that a comma wa* misplaced in the account of the Pilgrim lnnrtinir Another rare Pilgrim book at the Library of Congress has also furnished historians wit« their authority for facts written about th* Pilgrims during the last 250 years. When the researcher uses “New England’s Memorial,’’ writ* ten by Nathanial Morton, he feels especially fa* vored. He realizes that he reads from an original copy of the first strictly historical work printed In New England. Though it was published in Cambridge >as late as 1669. its facts are prac* tically first hand for they were obtained in Plymouth from fellow townsmen. Morton was enabled to write a more complete account of the Pilgrim settlement than any other author because he had access to the historical data compiled by his father, the author of “Mourts Relations,” and the writings of his uncle. Gov. Bradford, who gave the history of the Plymouth Plantation to America. One of the most im portant disclosures of this book Is the mention for the first time In print of the Spcedwuft and Mayflower.