, , , , , , ,

Leiden American Pilgrim Museum


Located in the oldest house in Leiden, built in 1375, it was opened in 1997 by

American Dr. Jeremy Bangs and is furnished with typical pieces from the

17th century. It is a living museum. Visitors can pick up cutlery, open cabinets

and sit in chairs. The characteristically cool northern light that drifts in through

the multipaned windows and settles shadows behind the collected objects

is reminiscent of 17th century Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer.

In the 17th century Leiden was a city of refugees and tolerant to different religious beliefs.

It was here that a small group of Calvinists (about a 100), separating from the Church of England,

fled to avoid religious persecution in 1609, 11 years before sailing on the Mayflower to Plymouth

and celebrating their first Thanksgiving in 1621.


The Milkmaid

c. 1658-1660

Johannes Vermeer

antique portrait and bedwarmer near recessed bed in 17th century home

Over the fireplace a portrait of Edward Winslow, one of the passengers

aboard the Mayflower and subsequent Governor of Plymouth Colony…

Raised bed built into a recess with warming pan hanging to the side…

Nursing chair to the left of fireplace…

First person account of first Thanksgiving 1621 in Mourt’s Relation by Edward Winslow

our harvest being gotten in, our governour sent foure men on fowling, that so we might after a speciall manner rejoyce together, after we had gathered the fruits of our labours ; they foure in one day killed as much fowle, as with a little helpe beside, served the Company almost a weeke, at which time amongst other Recreations, we exercised our Armes, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and amongst the rest their greatest king Massasoyt, with some ninetie men, whom for three dayes we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five Deere, which they brought to the Plantation and bestowed on our Governour, and upon the Captaine and others.  And although it be not always so plentifull, as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so farre from want,  that we often wish you partakers of our plentie.”


I am so thankful for those who strive to protect our past so we can walk through it,

touch it and hear the echoes of essential human thoughts coalesced through time.

We are not alone. We have the combined experience of generations before us. We sit

at the Thanksgiving table with all our connections, and centuries old traces of the

men and women that moved us to this place. We are all part of a pilgrim’s passage.

Happy Thanksgiving


Follow the pilgrim’s footsteps in Leiden here

World of Interiors Dec. ’08

photography Huntley Hedworth