Second Peirce Patent after conservaton

The Second Peirce Patent. Image courtesy of Pilgrim Hall Museum, Plymouth, Massachusetts, USA.

Signed in 1621, the Second Peirce Patent is the oldest existing state document of New England. In 2020, it will return to ‘Old’ England as part of the city’s Mayflower commemorations.

The document is owned by Pilgrim Hall Museum in Plymouth, Massachusetts – the oldest continuously operating public museum in America. Working with The Box, Plymouth, this unique object has now been restored so it can be displayed in Plymouth, UK for the first time.

Donna Curtin, Executive Director, Pilgrim Hall Museum said: “The Peirce Patent is an extraordinary survival from Anglo-America’s earliest beginnings and represents many of the complexities of colonisation, as well as our cultural ties with Great Britain. We are pleased that after nearly four centuries, it will cross the Atlantic for this significant visit.”

Second Peirce Patent at Pilgrim Hall Museum1

Image courtesy of Pilgrim Hall Museum, Plymouth, Massachusetts, USA.

When the passengers of the Mayflower arrived in America in the winter of 1620, they chose to establish their colony in Plymouth, Massachusetts, rather than continuing on to northern Virginia as planned. They had no authority from the English Crown to land where they did, nor any permission from the Native Americans already living in and around Cape Cod. The Second Peirce Patent was the first to grant them English permission to settle in Plymouth.

The 400-year old parchment document with four brown wax seals has been restored by specialists at the Northeast Document Conservation Centre in Massachusetts. They repaired tears and breaks in the paper, and carefully soaked, washed and ironed the linen.

Working with such a historic document presented many conservation challenges, but their expertise has ensured the complete restoration of the Second Peirce Patent which is now ready to travel to England for 2020.

Second Peirce Patent at Pilgrim Hall Museum2

Image courtesy of Pilgrim Hall Museum, Plymouth, Massachusetts, USA.

The document, signed by five Englishmen, gave each settler 100 acres of ground and ‘all such liberties, privileges, profits and commodities’ as the land and rivers ‘shall yield’. It also references the ‘churches, schools, hospitals, townhouses, and bridges’ the Mayflower passengers and subsequent English colonists would build in America.

The Second Peirce Patent will travel across the Atlantic to Plymouth, UK for the first time in 2020 when it will be part of The Box’s ‘Mayflower 400: Legend and Legacy’ exhibition.

Councillor Peter Smith, Deputy Leader said: “The 400th anniversary of the sailing of the Mayflower gives us the opportunity to display objects which have never been seen in England before. We are honoured to be able to welcome such a significant document to Plymouth for the first time.”

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