Henry Hornblower II

Henry Hornblower II

He was a Bostonian by breeding and instinct, and a broker by habit and obligation, but it would be neither Boston nor finance that would claim his ultimate loyalty…he was in some sense a man possessed of a dream, some would even say a passion; for him it all began and ended not in Boston, but in Plymouth, landing place of the Pilgrims and summer home to the Hornblowers for nearly a century — Reverend Peter Gomes, on Plimoth Plantation Founder Henry Hornblower

Besides being the idea-man behind Plimoth Patuxet, Henry Hornblower II (1917-1985) was the power behind his creation. He was a charming, humorous person who loved books, intellectual stimulation, good food and wine, and relaxing companionship. He detested pomposity. He had a broad, ready smile and a no-nonsense, never-defeated approach to the many problems inherent in pursuing his dream. He was Plimoth’s greatest advocate, capable of cajoling any number of unsuspecting souls into promoting his vision worldwide.

Harry – as he was called by all – was born into his family’s circle of high finance to which he, very reluctantly, later turned for a living. His educational background – Milton, Andover, and Harvard – fostered his interest in American history and archaeology. Hornblower spent his boyhood summers at his family’s summer house in Plymouth. Ultimately his creative attention focused on Plymouth and the Pilgrims. In this manner, the story of the small and fragile colony in southeast New England, Plimoth Patuxet, and its complex interrelationship with the Native Wampanoag People became the foundation of Harry’s outdoor “living” museum.

A man in a tank wearing a business suit waves to a man and woman dressed as Pilgrims

Harry on bulldozer, 1957

Two men in business suits stand in front of a sign and model of Plymouth Colony’s Fort Meeting House

Harry and Villiers, 1958

Two men conduct archeology work in a field

Harry and Doug Byers, Eastham 1935

He became fascinated by the story of the Pilgrims and their Wampanoag neighbors, and he carried out a number of archaeological excavations around the town. Eventually, it became his ambition to bring the remarkable story of Plymouth Colony and the Pilgrims’ struggle for survival to the people of America in the most effective way possible.

Harry imbued the museum with his exacting criteria of excellence. He not only wanted it to be an exciting, fulfilling, and challenging experience for the public and staff alike but, in the constant pursuit of new knowledge, he was determined that it maintain historic integrity.

Harry Hornblower gave of himself, his time, and his love of scholarship to further the museum’s highest ideals. He gave generously of himself and made a contribution of enduring significance for millions of people, generation upon generation.

Plimoth Patuxet was Harry Hornblower's passion and his lasting legacy to the world.