1920 1¢ Pilgrim Tercentenary: The Mayflower
US #548 pictures the Mayflower.  

On December 21, 1920, the US Post Office Department issued a set of three stamps honoring the 300th anniversary of the landing of the Pilgrims at Plymouth, Massachusetts.

1920 2¢ Pilgrim Tercentenary: Landing of the Pilgrims
US #549 pictures the Landing of the Pilgrims.

The Pilgrims never intended to be wanderers.  They were devout Christians who felt that only by breaking all ties with the Church of England could they retain their integrity before God.  They went to Holland first, but their plight didn’t improve.  So they set sail for America on September 16, 1620.

1920 5¢ Pilgrim Tercentenary: Signing of the Compact
US #550 pictures the signing of the Mayflower Compact.

The Pilgrims first arrived in America on November 11, 1620.  Before going ashore, 41 of the male passengers signed the Mayflower Compact, agreeing to follow the laws they would eventually set. They spent about a month collecting firewood and scouting for a place to build a settlement.  Around December 10 they found a spot they liked and returned to the Mayflower.  The Pilgrims then sailed the ship to Plymouth Harbor and came ashore on December 21.

1970 6¢ The Landing of the Pilgrims
US #1420 was issued for the 350th anniversary of the Pilgrims’ landing.

The Pilgrim Tercentenary stamps were issued on this same date in 1920.  The first stamp in the set, the green one-cent “Mayflower,” honors the vessel that carried 102 brave travelers to the religious freedom America promised.  Although the Pilgrims had a charter for Virginia, they landed in Massachusetts.

“Landing of the Pilgrims,” the two-cent carmine rose stamp, honors the voyagers who came ashore just before winter, too late to plant crops or build more than the simplest forms of shelter that first year.  Many didn’t survive the winter.  This settlement is where our Thanksgiving holiday started.  Tradition says a grateful Pilgrim colony offered up thanks for several days after the first harvest was gathered.  This issue shows the Pilgrims landing at Cape Cod, Massachusetts.  Contrary to early public opinion, stamp experts believe today that this issue illustrates fine detail and required extreme skill from the engraver.  In fact, had the cloud background been left out of the design, philatelists feel this issue might rank as one of the outstanding US stamps of the 20th century.

1995 Pilgrim Tercentenary Commemorative Cover
Item #570760C – Pilgrim Tercentenary Commemorative Cover

Finally, the blue five-cent “Signing of the Compact” commemorates the 41 men who, while onboard the Mayflower, signed an agreement to abide by the rules of the majority “for the good of the colony.”  Few realized that day the impact of their historic document.  The Compact was a foundation that we now see must have influenced the Founding Fathers as they formed the United States Constitution.  Free men, cherishing and preserving their freedom more than self-gain, made America a haven for “pilgrims” from many lands over many centuries.

1986 8.5¢ Stamped Envelopes and Wrappers - The Mayflower
US #U610 – Fleetwood Embossed Stamped Envelope

When this set was first issued, critics complained the stamps were too small and the designs too crowded. They were also the first issues not bearing words to indicate the country of origin. Many thought they would be recalled. However, some sources say that because the story of the Pilgrims was so famous, the Post Office Department believed they wouldn’t need to include the country name.

2020 Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor
US #5524 was issued for the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the Pilgrims.

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  1. I recall in the 1970s Hallmark produced several historically humorous calendars. One of the pictures was of the Native Americans watching the pilgrims coming ashore and the caption was “There goes the neighborhood.” Nice to be able to laugh at ourselves sometimes. ?

  2. Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor

    With this commemorative stamp, the Postal Service marks the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor. The stamp’s image is based on artwork of watercolor, acrylic and gouache, a method of painting that uses opaque pigments ground in water and thickened to a glue-like consistency. The painting was digitally refined to convey a scene of desolate beauty at the end of the Pilgrims’ long journey to an unfamiliar world. Art director Greg Breeding designed the stamp with original art by Greg Harlin.

  3. A little-known fact on the artwork for the #1420 350th anniversary stamp is that the flag on the ship is represented as the Union Jack although the design was not adopted until 1709. The artist didn’t know the difference. You can’t tell by looking at the stamp because it is so small, but the original artwork is in the Postmaster General’s collection that toured the country several years ago. I saw this in Orlando at the Central Florida Regional History Center. It should have been the red cross on white field.

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