Today, the Mayflower II—the replica of the 1620 ship that brought the Pilgrims to America and launched a nation—is seen by some 2.6 million visitors to Plymouth annually and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. But there is much more to the replica’s story than meets the eye. In fact, the origins of Project Mayflower began in the 1950s not with an American, but with a British World War II veteran named Warwick Charlton who had what seemed an impossible dream: build an historically accurate replica, sail her across the Atlantic, and present the finished product as a thank you to his country’s wartime ally.
What Charlton didn’t know was that the son of a powerful New England financier had the same idea. Henry (“Harry”) Hornblower II wanted a replica just as badly, though for a different reason: as a tourist attraction for a new museum he was building in Massachusetts, soon to be known as Plimoth Plantation, where the original Mayflower had landed centuries before. Despite different personal motives, Charlton and Hornblower agreed to join forces when they met by chance in 1955. Charlton would be responsible for financing, construction, and the vessel’s safe passage across the Atlantic, while Hornblower promised mooring, maintenance, and exhibition. Neither man could imagine what would happen next.
Project Mayflower recounts the never-before-told story of a grand adventure, from the origins of the idea, through the financial and political influences that nearly scuttled the ship, and the challenges of building an accurate replica based on a single known mention: William Bradford’s reference in Of Plimoth Plantation describing his craft simply as “180 tons of burden.” From there, Stone traces the Mayflower II’s dramatic seven-week ocean voyage from Plymouth, England, to Plymouth, Massachusetts, in the skilled hands of Alan Villiers and a crew of thirty-three bold men, and finishes by exploring the legacy of praise for the achievement, the skullduggery to tarnish the reputation of the project’s creator, and finally the Mayflower II’s lasting—and ongoing—impact on America.
Richard A. Stone is the founder of Mayflower Event News, an information platform devoted to stories related to the Mayflower and Mayflower II. A graduate of Harvard (BA Economics) and the University of California, Los Angeles (MA Journalism), he worked for decades with America’s premier media groups. Stone first joined NBC Radio and then moved to the TV side where, in addition to entertainment content, he sold sponsorships for the nightly news and the Olympics. After seven years, he moved to HBO for eight years as the network became a creative force in New York and Hollywood. When its parent company Time Inc. launched TV Cable Week, a print magazine modeled on People, he was part of the management team on the masthead. ESPN then hired Stone to design, launch, and manage multiple international networks for thirteen years. Following that, he represented the Canadian Football League outside of Canada, advised Panasonic Avionics on inflight entertainment, and worked as a consultant to the Plimoth Patuxet Museums. Originally from Southern California, he now lives in Cos Cob, Connecticut.
The true story of a plucky British World War II vet’s dream of building a replica of the Mayflower and sailing her across the Atlantic, Richard A. Stone’s superb Project Mayflower will engage all nonfiction readers who go in for accounts of perseverance against remarkable odds—and the maritime history buffs among them will want to make space on the bookshelf where they keep their Samuel Eliot Morisons and Nathaniel Philbricks.
In his new book, Stone brilliantly combines stories of adventure at sea and enterprise on land. The creation of the Mayflower II is a triumphant tale of personal persistence and international cooperation following the devastation of the Second World War.
A rollicking, riveting glimpse behind the scenes at one of the most brash enterprises ever to take to the high seas. Mayflower II had to navigate the storms of funding, political skulduggery, and the fierce Atlantic Ocean before emerging triumphant as an enduring testament to history and human experience.
I love this book! It’s vivid, wry, surprising, a wonderful and enlightening tale. It brings to life a cast of characters and a set of adventures that modern readers will learn from, remember, and enjoy.
Project Mayflower is a richly detailed telling of the vision, determination, and endless challenges to build a perfect replica of one of the Atlantic’s iconic three-masted vessels and recreate the two-month journey across the Atlantic. From the financial and political machinations that almost scuttled the project, to the manufacture of the hemp lines to seventeenth-century specifications, to the hardtack and salt pork in the sailors' mess, Richard Stone charts every step of the endeavor with meticulous research and breezy prose.
Project Mayflower is a fascinating and quirky tour through the early European settlement of New England and the quixotic quest of an English World War II veteran and writer to build a replica of the Mayflower and sail it across the Atlantic in the 1950s. His lofty, attention-seeking dream—a gesture of goodwill and a symbol of triumph over adversity—led to a partnership with the scion of a wealthy New England family and a tug-of-war over the ship’s purpose and future. The story, with its unexpected detours into politics, global events, and creative marketing schemes, proves the maxim that truth is stranger than fiction.