Pilgrim Half Dollar

Tercentenary Celebration 1620-1920


½ dollar dual date 1620-1920, .900 silver, issued also in 1921

The reverse features the bark Mayflower. The three-masted freighter was probably built at Leigh, England in 1606. She measured about 90 ft (27 m) in length and 26 ft (7.9 m) on the beam, drew some 11 ft (3.3 m) of water and had a tonnage of 180. She had a crew of 20-25 men. She was partly owned by her master, Captain Christopher Jones, and was engaged in the wine trade between Bordeaux and London. In 1620 Mayflower was chartered by the London Company for a voyage with colonists who had been permitted by the Virginia Company to settle in a part of its jurisdiction in America. The ship set out from Southampton, left Plymouth in September 1620 and arrived at Cape Cod in December 1620, where they founded a city which they called Plymouth, not far from present-day Boston, Massachusetts. Among the 102 emigrants on board were 37 members of the English Separatist Church. Some of the Separatists had come to Southampton from Leyden, Holland in a small ship, Speedwell. They had fled to Holland from England in 1608 to escape persecution for their religious convictions, which deviated from those of the Church of England. Most of the others on board were hired to protect the interests of the London Company. Prior to their landing at Cape Cod, the future colonists concluded the “Mayflower Compact,” signed by every adult male, which laid down the basis of government for the Plymouth Colony and ensured rights for all its settlers. Mayflower served as a home for the colonists until permanent dwellings were ready for occupancy in April 1621. Nearly half of the colonists died during the harsh winter of 1620/21 but none of the survivors chose to return to England in the ship. Mayflower survived at least until 1624. William Bradford (1590-1657) was unanimously elected as governor of Plymouth Colony in 1621 and was re-elected 30 times. Bradford referred to the group of “saints” who had left Holland, including himself, as “pilgrims.” They are now commonly known as the Pilgrim Fathers, after they were so called by orator Daniel Webster in 1820. Many Americans associate the Mayflower with the founding of their country.

The obverse shows a half-length figure of William Bradford in Puritan garb holding a Bible. The inscription IN GOD WE TRUST appeared for the first time on US coinage in 1864.