Piece of Plymouth Rock
1620, American History Museum
A hunk of granite is an icon of our cultural origins
In December of 1620, William Bradford and a band of tired, ailing English settlers alighted from the Mayflower at Plymouth Rock, right? Well, maybe. While the ship did arrive in Plymouth Harbor, and the Pilgrims did settle in the area and later partake of the feast we know as Thanksgiving, the now-venerated rock wasn’t part of the Pilgrim story until 121 years later, when a 94-year-old church elder asserted the landmark’s significance. This 100-pound hunk of the boulder had served as part of a doorstep before the Plymouth Antiquarian Society gave it to the Smithsonian in 1985—a concrete reminder of the European settling of the continent.