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This Other Eden: Pilgrims, Puritans & the New Promised Land

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"European sailors told of being able to smell the pine forests of North America before they were within sight of land. Early explorers sometimes described possible settlements along the coast in tempting terms. Captain John Smith of Virginia made a whaling expedition to New England [which he is credited with naming] in 1614; he subsequently published a book describing the region's genial climate, fair coasts, and natural harbors...Immigrants endured hardships on their journeys and in their first years in America. Some portion of each new settlement perished from hunger, exposure, disease, or conflict, yet the stream of settlers kept coming. They crossed the Atlantic for many reasons: some for wealth, some to escape political or religious institutions they saw as oppressive or corrupt."

However, some "early colonists came to the New World expecting to gain wealth through some combination of luck and hard work and return to their home cities or towns to enjoy their prosperity. The names of the places they settled - New Spain, New England, New York, Nova Scotia - and the nature of the portraits they commissioned tell us that they did not think of themselves as Americans, but as transplants."

The artistic world and the literary world share much in common with respect to this approach. They were not writing "American literature" yet - - because in a sense such literature did not yet exist. Rather they were writing as transplanted Europeans, in a European voice and style. However, many American literature courses will begin with this period because in a sense, works such as John Smith's Historie of Virginia and William Bradford's Of Plymouth Plantation became our nation's first attempt at literature.

* All quoted material from the Smithsonian American Art Museum's America's Art" #SAAMteach

Embarkation of the Pilgrims

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Osage Scalp Dance

Smithsonian American Art Museum

John Winthrop

National Portrait Gallery

Jonathan Edwards

National Portrait Gallery


National Portrait Gallery

Pilgrims Going to Church, [photomechanical print]

Archives and Special Collections, Smithsonian American Art Museum