If you visit Plymouth, Massachusetts to see Pilgrim-related sites, you should not miss the Mayflower II, a full-size replica of the original vessel. Its much more recent story is almost as fascinating as that of its 17th-century counterpart and every bit the tribute to private initiative that the first one was. Enter a remarkable man named Warwick Charlton.
"Mr. Charlton had no money of his own but raised what would today be the equivalent of several million dollars. He fought on despite angry creditors, striking shipyard workers, jealous keepers of the Pilgrims' torch in Massachusetts and ingrates who suggested his motives were less than pure—meaning commercial. He loved the whole glorious mess."For more than a decade as he held jobs in the publishing and broadcasting businesses, Charlton shook the bushes for donations. Almost everybody he talked to in Britain endorsed the idea but then didn’t come through with a check. So he came up with creative stunts such as selling “treasure chests” of British products that would be opened when his dream ship anchored in America. He even convinced the Mayflower Moving Company in the U.S. to contribute to the rebuilding in exchange for certain promotional rights. He eventually secured additional support (including necessary historical research and architectural design) from the foundation that maintains the Pilgrim site in Plymouth, Massachusetts.
"An initial budget estimate of £280,000 was soon doubled. Charlton begged rope builders, sailmakers and timber merchants for material in return for a chance to associate their name with the project. As soon as building commenced, he erected a barrier at the entrance to the shipyard with a notice that read: “Come and look round the hull of Mayflower II. Entrance fee: two shillings.” By the time the ship set sail, 245,000 people had paid to watch the work in progress. In all, Charlton managed to persuade 200 industrial, commercial, and individual sponsors to help to finance the project."Mere similarity to the original Mayflower was not sufficient for Charlton. Once he had raised enough money, which took a decade, he aimed to construct a precise replica of the 183-ton ship. He insisted that the shipbuilder use tools and materials identical to those of the 17th century, such as English oak. He even required the builder himself, Stuart Upham, to travel on the replica’s eventual voyage to America and guarantee its seaworthiness.
Recently restored for the upcoming 400th anniversary ceremonies, Mayflower II still resides today near famed Plymouth Rock where Warwick Charlton left it over six decades ago. He himself visited almost annually for many years, joining the line of tourists and quietly amusing himself as so many thought they were gazing upon the original.
Mayflower II was Warwick Charlton’s way—privately, enthusiastically, and without harming any taxpayers—of proclaiming his gratitude to America. He gifted the ship to America for the nominal “fee” of $1.00.