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Mayflower, Day by Day - Saturday, 10 October 1620

10 Oct 2020 2:50 AM | Soule (Administrator)

Passengers’ Ages and Occupations [Part Two]

A full analysis of vocations (trades, etc.) represented by the Mayflower company is difficult. They were, since they intended to found a colony, of considerable variety, though it should be understood that the vocations given were the callings these individuals followed before boarding the ship. Several are known to have been engaged in other pursuits either before their residence in Holland or during their earlier years there. Bradford tells us that most of the Leyden congregation (or that portion of it which came from England in 1608) were agricultural people. These were mostly obliged to acquire other occupations. A few, e.g. Allerton, Brewster, Bradford, Carver, Cooke, and Winslow, possessed some means, while others had pursued occupations for which there was no demand in the Low Countries. Standish, bred to arms, apparently followed his profession nearly to the time of departure, and resumed it in the colony. Of the “arts, crafts or trades” of the colonists from London and neighbouring English localities, little has been gleaned. They were mostly people of some means, tradesmen rather than artisans, and at least two (Martin and Mullins) were evidently also of the Merchant Adventurers.  Their marital status has not been determined in every case; though it is of course possible that some were married, but there is no surviving record, especially among the seamen.  The passengers of the Mayflower on her departure from England appear to be grouped as follows:.

Adult males (hired men and servants of age included)  


Adult females


Youths, male children, and male servants (minors)


Young women, female children





Married males


Married females


Single (adult) males (and young men)  


Single (adult) female (Mrs Carver’s maid)   


Allowing for the addition of Wilder and the two sailors, Trevor and Ely, who did not sign it, the number of those who signed the Compact tallies exactly with the adult males. Besides these occupations, it is known that several were skilled in other callings, and were at some time teachers, accountants, linguists, writers, etc., while some had formerly practised certain crafts; Dr. Fuller, e.g. having formerly been a “silk-worker,” Bradford (on the authority of Belknap) a “silk-dyer,” and others “fustian-workers.” Hopkins had apparently sometime before dropped his character of “lay-reader,” and was a pretty efficient man of affairs, but his vocation at the time of the exodus is not known.  The former occupations of fourteen of the adult colonists (Brown, Billington, Britteridge, Cooke, Chilton, Clarke, Crackstone, Goodman, Gardiner, Rogers, Rigdale, Turner, Warren, and Williams) are not certainly known. There is evidence suggesting that Brown was a mechanic; Billington and Cooke had been trained to husbandry; Chilton had been a small tradesman; Edward Tilley had been, like his brother, a silk-worker; Turner was a tradesman, and Warren a farmer; it is certain that Cooke, Rogers, and Warren had been men of some means.  The women of the Mayflower will be discussed tomorrow.


  • 10 Oct 2020 4:12 AM | Soule (Administrator)
    Jeremy Bangs, the well known Leiden scholar, responded to this post on another site: "There is documented information about their occupations in Leiden in the book Strangers and Pilgrims, Travellers and Sojourners - Leiden and the Foundations of Plymouth Plantation (GSMD, 2009). That book also explains that the common assumption that Bradford and others had something to do with silk cloth production is incorrect. In Leiden 'zyde' (silk) was a term used to indicate a particularly soft type of wool cloth produced in a way that resembled the production in Amsterdam of silk. So a Leiden 'zydelaken' was a very soft wool blanket. The authority for this is N. W. Posthumus, in his multi-volume history and documentation of the Leiden Laken-Industrie."
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