Colonial Collections


 Map of England and Wales, Abraham Ortelius (1527-98), Antwerp or Amsterdam, 1573 

1.        Map of England and Wales, Abraham Ortelius (1527-98), Antwerp or Amsterdam, 1573

England changed dramatically after King Henry VIII broke with the Catholic Church and dissolved the monasteries. The newly-available land attracted up-and-coming merchants and farmers, and they wanted maps to record their holdings. Mayflower colonists came from many counties across England.


 Baby chair, oak, England or the Netherlands

2.         Baby chair, oak, England or the Netherlands, 1600-1650

Baby chairs, like this one, are often seen in Dutch paintings from the 1600s. The baby was held in the chair by a bar across the front. Unlike the Englishmen who planted or settled in Virginia, the Pilgrims emigrated as families and planned to remain permanently where they settled. Three Mayflower passengers were pregnant during the crossing.


 “Geneva” Bible, London, 1615

3.         “Geneva” Bible, published by Robert Barker, London, 1615

From its first publication in 1560, through the English Civil War of the 1640s, the “Geneva Bible” was the most popular translation of Scripture with Puritan and Separatist readers. It is often called the “Breeches Bible” because in Genesis 3:7 Adam and Eve made themselves “breeches” out of fig leaves. The Authorized Version (now popularly known as the “King James Bible”) appeared in 1611 and was the official Bible in all Church of England parishes. 


Saw fragment, 1650-1700 

4.         Saw fragment, 1650-1700, excavated from Winslow Site, Marshfield, MA

Soon after the Pilgrims arrived, they set out to build temporary shelters, and then proper houses. Unlike England, there was abundant wood in New England for building houses and ships. Much of the timber used in house building was cut using a two-man pit saw.  A shortage of labor encouraged Colonists to build sawmills by the 1630s.


Etching, Cow and Sheep, by Claes Berchem 

5.         Etching, Cow and Sheep, by Claes Berchem (1620-1683), Netherlands, 1650-80

European Colonists brought dairy cattle, like cows and goats, to the Americas as a source of milk and meat. Some historians conjecture that goats came on Mayflower; colonist Edward Winslow brought the first cows to New England in 1624. Often English domestic animals roamed free, trampling Native cornfields and causing disagreements between the two peoples.


 Stoneware wine bottle, German States, 1680-1670

6.         Stoneware wine bottle, German States, Frechen area, 1680-1670

The Pilgrims were part of an international trade network. Germans exported wine from the Rhine valley in stoneware bottles, often with bearded faces modeled on the necks.  Fragments of these wine bottles have been found on sites all along the Atlantic coast of North America.


 Pipe fragments, kaolin clay, England, 1620-1680

7.         Pipe fragments, kaolin clay, England, 1620-1680

English explorer and pirate Sir Walter Raleigh introduced tobacco from the Americas to England, where smoking tobacco became wildly popular. The Dutch and English manufactured clay tobacco pipes. Fragments are found on archaeological sites on both sides of the Atlantic.


 Breastplate with tassets, steel, England or Austria, 1600-1650

8.         Breastplate with tassets, steel, England or Austria, 1600-1650

Pamphlets on colonization urged prospective settlers to bring armor for defense against the Natives and competing European colonies. Pike men, who fought with long wooden spears, wore breast and back plates as well as tassets to protect their thighs. A tasset plate was excavated from the John Howland Site in Kingston, Massachusetts.


 Sampler, embroidered by Theodora Oxenbridge, silk on linen, c1660

9.         Sampler, embroidered by Theodora Oxenbridge, silk on linen, c1660

Stitching a sampler was a way to learn the alphabet and the stitches required for marking linen. Girls (and sometimes boys) began to learn their stitches between the ages of eight and twelve. Theodora Oxenbridge, who worked this sampler as a girl, was the daughter of Rev. John Oxenbridge, who preached in England, the Caribbean, and finally, Boston. 


 Glass trade beads, Dutch or Venetian c. 1630

10.       Glass trade beads, Dutch or Venetian, excavated from the Allerton Site, Kingston, MA, c1630

Colorful glass beads made in Europe were popular trade items used in bartering with Native people for furs and other goods. Pilgrim Isaac Allerton, who built a house on this site circa 1630, was a merchant.

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