Between basting the turkey and mashing the potatoes in preparation for Thanksgiving on Thursday, why not take some time to view some of the historic documents that set the stage for the annual holiday? Plymouth Massachusetts was home to the first Thanksgiving celebration in 1621, and Massachusetts libraries have the resources to provide insight of that special celebration.
The Massachusetts State Library located in the State House has a digitized copy of William Bradford’s Of Plimoth Plantation. A State Library blog post outlines the interesting history of Bradford’s famous account of early life in Plymouth:
“The volume’s history is long and complicated, but can be summarized in a few points: between 1650 and 1726 the manuscript remained in the hands of the Bradford family until the family loaned it to Thomas Prince, Rector of Old South Church in Boston. Prince died before volume could be returned to the family. Legend has it that British soldiers removed the manuscript from Old South Church during the Revolutionary War. In 1855, Massachusetts historian William Barry discovered the volume in the Library of the Bishop of London in Fulham Palace, and then for the next forty years individuals and historical organizations in Massachusetts negotiated for its return. In 1897 the volume was returned to Massachusetts and placed in the custody of Governor Roger Wolcott; Governor Wolcott authorized the State Library to care for the volume.” (http://mastatelibrary.blogspot.com/2015/03/william-bradfords-manuscript-volume-of.html)
In 2012, with support from an LSTA grant administered by the MBLC, the document was preserved at the Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC) in Andover, Massachusetts. In addition to Bradford’s book the library has digitized copies of the Mayflower Compact, the list of Mayflower Passengers, and an account of “Thanksgiving 1621”. All of these digital resources are easily accessible to download and view here: http://archives.lib.state.ma.us/handle/2452/208249.
If you are celebrating Thanksgiving in Plymouth, you can stop by the Plymouth Public Library’s local history room to find out more about the first settlers and their histories. The Bartlett Room “houses the Plymouth Public Library’s collection of over 1200 items relating to the descendants of the Mayflower Pilgrims, as well as the many other immigrants who settled in the area.” In addition, the library’s website has digitized photos of the Plymouth Tercentenary Celebration. The photos and more information about the Bartlett room can be found here: http://pplma.omeka.net/welcome.
On behalf of the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners, we wish you and yours a very Happy Thanksgiving!