"The Mayflower left London on September 16, 1620, under Captain Christopher Jones. A second ship, clearly unseaworthy, had to turn back and had delayed the intended spring departure. The Mayflower had 102 passengers. None were of aristocratic birth, but several were gentry of reasonably substantial means. William Bradford, their leader, spoke of them as "saints" (those who were Separatists) and "strangers" (those who were not). The saints numbered 41: 17 men, 10 women, and 14 children. More than 60 of the passengers were strangers: some recruited by Weston, some indentured servants, some hired for specific skills, some destitute children. Among the strangers, however, were several future leaders of the colony. They included Miles Standish, the ship's military officer and a professional soldier (the Separatists had declined Captain John Smith's offer to accompany them); and John Alden, a cooper who maintained the beer barrels. Also on board were provisions, tools, seed, and probably pigs, goats, and chickens (but no cattle, horses, or sheep). Later, in his written history of Plymouth Plantation, Bradford referred to the Mayflower passengers as "pilgrims." They have been known by that name ever since." (American History Online)


"The Mayflower was a typical merchant vessel of her day: square rigged and beak bowed, with high, castlelike superstructures fore and aft that protected her cargo and crew in the worst weather, but made beating against the wind a painfully inefficient endeavor. Rated at 180 tons, she was approximately three times the size of the Speedwell and about one hundred feet in length." p. 24 Nathaniel Philbrick, Mayflower In the Heart of the Sea.


"William Bradford's classic account of the Mayflower's voyage does not mention the ship by name, nor does it describe the vessel. In 1926, however, a model was constructed by R. C. Anderson from general information about late-16th-century merchant ships of its tonnage. This model, which is in Pilgrim Hall, Plymouth, gives the ship's dimensions as 90 ft (27.4 m) long, with a 64-ft (19.5-m) keel, 26-ft (7.9-m) beam, and a hold 11 ft (3.4 m) deep. In 1957 a close replica of the Mayflower was sailed from Plymouth, England, to Plymouth, Mass., where it is on view." (Grolier Online)

Historical Context

Mayflower Compact.

"The passengers on the Mayflower agreed to form a "civil body politic" that would bind the Separatists and the "Strangers" in a self-governing unit. It was signed by 41 passengers, all the free adult males, in the cabin of the Mayflower on November 11 (November 21, new style calendar), 1620, while the ship was anchored in Provincetown Harbor at the tip of Cape Cod. The covenant agreed to was specifically for their "better ordering and preservation." They agreed to "enact, constitute, and frame such just and equal laws . . . as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the Colony." It was a covenant similar to ones used in the Protestant churches of the time providing for those who agreed to the covenant to be bound by "all due submission and obedience." What the Mayflower Compact created was a secular covenant consented to by its signatories providing for a voluntary government, but one that would still be agreeable to the laws of England." (American History Online).

Signing of the Mayflower Compact

Important People in the Life of the Ship

William Bradford

", a founder and long-time governor of Plymouth colony, was born of yeoman stock in Austerfield, Yorkshire, the son of William Bradford and Alice Hanson. As Plymouth Colony's long-enduring governor, William Bradford had central responsibility for setting the community's course and directing its affairs. The difficulties were numerous and great, and the burden of authority required answerable character and competence. Bradford's chronicle, Of Plimmoth Plantation, is his monument. Not only an invaluable record of early English settlement on the North American continent, it is commonly acknowledged the foremost work of history produced in the English colonies in the seventeenth century." (American National Biography Online)

Complete Mayflower Passenger List with Biographical Information

Images of the Mayflower

click Click|here to see more images of the Mayflower.

Read more about the Mayflower:

Books in the OWHL collection:

* Land ho!--1620; a seaman's story of the Mayflower; her construction, her navigation and her first landfall, by W. Sears Nickerson

Additional Resources

You will need to be on campus to access the following articles:

Voyage of the Mayflower

The Mayflower by R.G. Marsden from The English Historical Review 1904