Bradford, William

Bradford, William
born March 1590, Austerfield, Yorkshire, Eng.
died May 9, 1657, Plymouth, Mass.

Governor of the Plymouth Colony in America for 30 years.

A member of the Separatist movement within Puritanism, in 1609 he left England and went to Holland seeking religious freedom. Finding a lack of economic opportunity there, in 1620 he helped organize an expedition of about 100 Pilgrims to the New World. He helped draft the Mayflower Compact aboard the group's ship, and he served as governor of the Plymouth Colony for all but five years from 1621 to 1656. He helped establish and foster the principles of self-government and religious freedom that characterized later American colonial government. His descriptive journal provides a unique source of information on both the voyage of the Mayflower and the challenges faced by the settlers.

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▪ American painter [1823–1892]
born April 30, 1823, Fairhaven, Mass., U.S.
died April 25, 1892, New York City

      U.S. marine painter whose pictures attracted much attention by reason of their novelty and colour effects.

      He was a Quaker and a self-taught artist, painting the ships and the marine views he saw along the coasts of Massachusetts, Labrador, and Nova Scotia; he went on several Arctic expeditions with Isaac Hayes and was the first American painter to portray the frozen regions of the north. His “Steamer ‘Panther' in Melville Bay, under the Light of the Midnight Sun” was exhibited at the Royal Academy in London in 1875. Bradford was a member of the National Academy of Design, New York City.

      His style was somewhat influenced by Albert van Beest, who worked with him at Fairhaven for a time, but Bradford is observant of minute detail, whereas Beest's aim was general effect. John Greenleaf Whittier's poem “Amy Wentworth” was inspired by a Bradford painting and is addressed to him.

▪ American printer [1663–1752]
born May 20, 1663, Leicestershire, England
died May 23, 1752, New York, New York [U.S.]

      printer who issued one of the first American almanacs, Kalendarium Pennsilvaniense or America's Messenger (1685), the first American Book of Common Prayer (1710), and many political writings and pamphlets.

      Bradford learned the printer's trade in London and then immigrated to Pennsylvania in 1682. Settling in Philadelphia, he opened a printing shop in 1685 and a bookstore in 1688. In 1690, with William Rittenhouse and others, he established the first paper mill in America, at Roxborough, Pennsylvania (now in Philadelphia). Bradford went to New York in 1693, was appointed royal printer for the colony, and, in the next half-century, issued about 400 titles. In November 1725 he published the first New York newspaper, the New York Gazette. Many of his descendants were also printers.

▪ British Plymouth colony governor
born March 1590, Austerfield, Yorkshire, Eng.
died May 9, 1657, Plymouth, Mass. [U.S.]

      governor of the Plymouth colony for 30 years, who helped shape and stabilize the political institutions of the first permanent colony in New England. Bradford also left an invaluable journal chronicling the Pilgrim venture, of which he was a part.

      As a boy in England, he was caught up in the fervour of the Protestant Reformation and when he was only 12 became a dedicated member of one of the separatist churches that made up the “left wing” of Puritanism. Seven years later he joined a group of nonconformists who migrated to Holland (1609) in search of religious freedom. Dissatisfied with the lack of economic opportunity there, he helped organize an expedition of about 100 “Pilgrims” to the New World in 1620. They made up about half the passengers on the Mayflower. Aboard ship, Bradford was one of the framers of the historic Mayflower Compact, an agreement for voluntary civil cooperation that became the foundation of the Plymouth government. The following year he was unanimously chosen as governor of the New World settlement and was re-elected 30 times, serving all but five years until 1656.

      Bradford is remembered mainly for his contribution in nurturing the fledgling colony's democratic institutions (at least for fellow believers), such as the franchise and town meeting, thus helping establish those traditions of self-government that would set the pattern for national political development in years to come. Although he called himself a Congregationalist, he discouraged sectarian labels and made a point of welcoming all separatist groups to New England shores. In addition, he evolved means of assimilating nonbelievers into the life of the colony.

      Bradford's History of Plymouth Plantation, 1620–47 is a unique source of intimate detail and description of both the sea voyage and the hardships and challenges faced by the settlers.

Additional Reading
Bradford Smith, Bradford of Plymouth (1951), is a biography.

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Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Bradford,William — I. Bradford1, William. 1590 1657. English Puritan colonist in America. A signer of the Mayflower Compact and a settler of Plymouth Plantation, he was elected governor for 30 one year terms and led the colony through its difficult early years.  … …   Universalium

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