Looking Back: Remembering the 200th Anniversary of the Mayflower

Introduction: In this article – as part of the celebration of the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the Mayflower – Mary Harrell-Sesniak writes about how the event was celebrated 200 years ago, in 1820. Mary is a genealogist, author, and editor with a strong technology background who has written and collected some of the funniest, quirkiest, or most touching sayings about genealogy that she’s encountered in her career as a family historian. Please attribute this article if sharing.

Throughout November, we’ve been celebrating the 400-year anniversary of the Mayflower’s voyage, when the brave Pilgrims crossed the Atlantic Ocean and landed in the New World. Having recently published an article on the 300th anniversary (the tercentenary) of the Mayflower’s arrival (see Looking Back: Remembering the 300th Anniversary of the Mayflower), I thought our readers would also be interested in the 200-year festivities that  happened in 1820.

Photo: ship model of the Mayflower at Pilgrim Hall, c. 1905
Photo: ship model of the Mayflower at Pilgrim Hall, c. 1905. Credit: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

At Plymouth Rock

Celebrations were held at the Old Colony [Plymouth], as it was then referred to, including celebratory toasts and commemorative words by Daniel Webster and other well-known persons of the day.

“The Rock of Plymouth – May it be trodden [a] thousand years hence by as worthy feet as leaped upon it two hundred years ago.” — Daniel Webster

An article about the Mayflower, Woodstock Observer newspaper article 2 January 1821
Woodstock Observer (Woodstock, Vermont), 2 January 1821, page 3

Historical Recaps

It was common for towns to publish historical recaps, such as this one from Brunswick, Maine:

“On this day, two centuries since, occurred an event, inferior, in its consequences, to none in the secular annals of the world; and to a large proportion of the freemen of this great Republic, of transcendent interest.”

An article about the Mayflower, Maine Intelligencer newspaper article 22 December 1820
Maine Intelligencer (Brunswick, Maine), 22 December 1820, page 106

The Pilgrim Society

Although the General Society of Mayflower Descendants wasn’t formed until 1897, 1820 inspired the formation of the Pilgrim Society (not to be confused with another society formed later.) I recognize a few Mayflower cousins among the names of the founders, and wonder if our readers do too?

An article about the Pilgrim Society, Boston Commercial Gazette newspaper article 22 June 1820
Boston Commercial Gazette (Boston, Massachusetts), 22 June 1820, page 1

Named a Ship

Several papers included reports of a new Mayflower named after the original ship.

An article about a ship named Mayflower, Washington Gazette newspaper article 11 October 1821
Washington Gazette (Washington, D.C.), 11 October 1821, page 2

Although this was an exciting commemoration, there were already a number of brigs and sloops by this name, as well as other well-known Pilgrims and Native Americans.

An article about a ship named Massasoit, Baltimore Patriot & Mercantile Advertiser newspaper article 24 January 1820
Baltimore Patriot & Mercantile Advertiser (Baltimore, Maryland), 24 January 1820, page 1

Honor the Pilgrims

Don’t forget to explore GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives for stories about the Pilgrims, and also look for evidence of your own roots. You never know – you might just find that ancestors were so proud of their Mayflower roots that it was mentioned in earlier newspapers!

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