Plymouth Rock

No American historical tour is complete without a personal encounter with this symbol of national identity and origins.

It’s not whether Plymouth Rock is the actual site of the Pilgrims’ landing that makes it special; that’s a matter of some dispute among historians. For Alexis De Tocqueville, Cole Porter and American schoolchildren everywhere, Plymouth Rock has continually served as a reminder of why the Pilgrims sought freedom in the New World. Note its humble appearance but remarkable significance. Now one-third to one-half of its original size, its miraculous survival reflects the survival of America itself.

Learn of the story of the famous rock. In 1741, when plans were drawn to build a wharf upon the Plymouth shoreline, one Plymouth resident, 94-year-old Thomas Faunce, wanted to visit the site before construction began. His father, he said, had shown him a rock that marked exactly where the Pilgrims had landed. He was conveyed to the site by chair and wept at the large stone we call “Plymouth Rock” to this day.

Since its dedication, Plymouth Rock has endured intense trials. In 1774 it was split in two during an effort to move it from the wharf to the town meetinghouse. In these troubled times just before the Revolutionary War, many interpreted this break as a sign that the Americans should “break” from England. The “1620” engraving on the rock, referring to the year the Pilgrims landed, was added when the two pieces of the rock were rejoined in 1880.

At various times, other changing fortunes befell the rock. Learn all of the entertaining details from the guides who stand next to it from May through Thanksgiving Day and answer questions. Spot the rock as you walk along Plymouth Harbor, just south of Mayflower II. Its unmistakable Roman-style housing makes it difficult to miss.

Pieces of Plymouth Rock are kept in veneration all over America. To see the original is a rare treat. Make contact not just with America’s founding, but with the way Americans have related to that story of the nation’s origin over the years.

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