I did an interesting “art project” or “history project” with my seventh grade, working in concert with our fifth and second grades. We assembled a little museum exhibit of things borrowed from around school and from parents of all the objects listed in the inventory of Mr. John Alden, Mayflower passenger and Plimouth colonist.
We didn’t manage to get the sheep, cattle, or horses… and we lacked a saddle, and some of the tools (what does a mortising adze look like?), but we did create a pretty good little exhibit. The kids are going to see it later this morning, but I felt like sharing a picture…
The Inventory of John Alden, died 1689
John Alden was one of the Pilgrims who came to America on the Mayflower. He married a woman named Priscilla Mullins in Plymouth, and together they had ten children. He was the last of the Mayflower men to die, but he didn’t own very much when he died — his estate was worth £ 50 — about $10,000 in today’s money.
John Alden’s family may have been poor, but some of his descendants became important in America — Presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams, actors Orson Welles and Marilyn Monroe, and poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
|Herd of Cattle, Sheep, pigs & one horse||13|
|one Table, one formal chest, one carpet, one cupboard and cupboard cloth (cover)||15|
|2 Wooden Chairs||3|
|2 bedsteads, 2 Chests & 5 boxes||15|
|Andirons, pot hooks, and hangers||8||6|
|2 cooking pots, Tongs one quart kettle||10|
|1 adze and 3 saws||8||6|
|Augur and 3 Chisels||5|
|wedges and cooper’s drawknife||1||7|
|12 Cart bolts (large iron bolts)||13|
|dripping pan & gridirons||5|
|pewter dishes and bowls
old Iron bowls
|2 old guns||11|
|Table linen & other linen||1||12|
|one Spit & various bags 2s||3||6|
|one mortising axe||1|
a case of plates with other things
|Wooden ox-yoke and washtub||2||6|
|one gown and a bit of linen cloth||7|
|one horse bridle & Saddle gear,
Cash and wearing Clothes
|other old lumber||15|
CONVERTING TO MODERN MATERIALS
In the list on the other side of this page, 1 L, or £ 1, is worth about $200. There were 12 shillings (s) to the pound ( £ ), and 20 pennies (d) to the shilling (or 240 pennies to the pound).
For our purposes, this means that 1 shilling is about $16.00 of value, and a penny of John Alden’s money is worth about ninety cents — so the items listed for six pennies in the inventory cost about $5.00 apiece.
When a man in the Plymouth Colony died, his friends and relatives put together a list of his property and possessions. It was the custom that when a woman died, her property passed to her husband if she was married, or her father or brother if she was not.