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History of the Massachusetts Society of Mayflower Descendants: 1970-1979

History of the Massachusetts Society of Mayflower Descendants

History from 1970 to 1979


With no national celebration planned for the 350th anniversary of the landing of the Pilgrims in 1970 and the General Society unable to fund any projects, Massachusetts found itself free to create its own anniversary project. Starting late, because they had waited for the General Society to announce its plans, an ad hoc committee was appointed in April of 1970. Through the interest of Society member Bradford Washburn, Director of the Museum of Science in Boston, and in cooperation with Plimoth Plantation, the committee decided to build a model of Plimoth Plantation for exhibit in the Science Museum. The model (10 by 16 feet, built on a scale of 5/32 of an inch to the foot) was designed by model-maker Robert D. Wild to incorporate the latest results of research on the Pilgrims' houses and would include twenty-two houses and two hundred figures of men, women, children, and animals. It was to be displayed with the model of the Mayflower that the Museum owned, and wall dioramas about Pilgrim life were to be developed later. The Mayflower Society would maintain title to the model. The final cost of the model was $28,000, and it was presented at the Compact Day meeting in 1972. The Plantation model was placed on the main floor of the Museum at the feet of the two-story dinosaur. In 1981 the Society was notified the model would be moved to a lower floor where it would be more appropriately presented, and in 1994 the Museum returned the model to the Society.

The New England Historic Genealogical Society again offered space in their library at 101 Newbury Street in 1972 and this time the offer was accepted. These new quarters were on the third floor of the building. The lease was renewed in 1976 with a handshake agreement between NEHGS president Richard Johnson and Massachusetts Mayflower Governor Howard Mayo. However, within days of Johnson's death in September 1977, the Society was suddenly notified by the new NEHGS administration that the lease would not be renewed, and for the third time in ten years the Massachusetts Society moved. In January 1978, the Society moved into two and one half rooms at the Statler Office Building in Park Square, Boston.

The Society's possessions, in "temporary" storage since 1966, were finally brought out in 1979 and temporarily re-stored in the basement of the General Society's Mayflower House in Plymouth. This material was appraised, the most valuable items placed on loan with the Mayflower House and other historic houses in Plymouth, and the rest disposed of. Among the valuable collections found in storage was the set of Staffordshire plates now displayed at the Mayflower House in a lighted cabinet built by Stuart Hall.

The Society By-laws had always directed that annual meetings must be held in Boston. By the mid 1970s and early 1980s, however, most of the membership of the Society lived outside of Boston. When attendance at annual meetings dropped to unacceptable lows, the By-laws were amended to allow meetings in any location. Thereafter, Annual and Compact Day meetings have been rotated among the North and South shores, west of Boston, as well as in Boston proper. A Mayflower Ball was held at the Copley Plaza Hotel in Boston in 1975, present one debutante. The Peregrination to Plymouth was held at various places in Plymouth, and a Cape Cod group of members was established in 1976, which held local meetings on the Cape for a few years.