Getting tipsy on the Mayflower II

One of the most fascinating and relatively recent expressions of Mayflower-mania came with the building and sailing of a ‘replica’ of the ship in 1957. Dubbed the ‘Mayflower II’, the idea for the project came from Warwick Charlton, a then London-based public relations expert who had fond memories of serving alongside Americans in the Second World War. Like the 1917 commemorative postcard we recently featured, the Mayflower II was a project conceived primarily to support Anglo-American relations – this time, in the guise of ensuring ‘the free world’ against the backdrop of the Cold War. We are currently researching the Mayflower II – from the idea to afterlife – and will be sharing a much longer piece soon. In the meantime, to ‘whet your appetite’, the below is a miniature souvenir Guinness bottle – next to a tangerine for scale – that was taken on board the ship (along with many other examples of industry, manufacture and commerce from the ‘British Isles’). When I bought this bottle on eBay, for a price I’m not willing to admit(!), I thought it was full-size… a cautionary tale that sometimes things are not always what they seem – much like the cultural afterlife of the Mayflower!

Randal Charlton, son of Warwick, has recently written a book about his father: The Wicked Pilgrim. You can pick up a copy here


1917 Silk Postcard

Commemorative 1917 wartime postcard. Manufactured by Birn Brothers, Ltd, England.

This embroidered silk postcard commemorated the official entry of the USA into the First World War. It was made in England by Birn Brothers, Ltd – a large printing house that manufactured both cheap pictorial books and postcards.[1] On the front of the postcard, the Stars and Stripes and the Union Jack hang out from behind a laurel wreath and an anchor: symbols of nationhood, victory and naval power intertwined. Joining the composition together are two pennants adorned with ‘Mayflower 1620’ and ‘Allied April 1917’. Mayflower-mania had been reaching fever pitch on both sides of the Atlantic in the final years of the 19th century and especially in the lead-up to the First World War. New editions of important fiction and non-fiction works about the Pilgrim Fathers were published, monuments erected in towns and cities that linked themselves to the story, and committees formed to plan largescale celebrations for the 300th anniversary in 1920. Around the same time, a rapprochement between Britain and the USA was taking place after a long period of animosity following the American Revolution. To achieve the sense of a new alliance, diplomats – from the highest echelons of government to the everyday Anglo-American enthusiast – actually looked back to history. The tale of the Pilgrim Fathers was ripe for using as a tool to create a shared identity. ‘The return of the Mayflower’ had already become a familiar expression in previous decades, referring to the 1621 return voyage on which no Pilgrims had chosen to journey. But during the War the phrase took on a new meaning: the return in the present of now-American Pilgrims to save their mother country. Rudyard Kipling popularised this idea in 1917 when he described how the world had seen ‘The second sailing of the Mayflower’ and tentatively asked ‘What shall grow out of her return voyage our grandchildren may, perhaps, comprehend.’[2] In a bright and colourful way, this postcard captured that spirit.

[1] Metro Postcard –

[2] Rudyard Kipling, ‘The second sailing of the “Mayflower”’, Daily Telegraph (August 17th 1918).