Your local stationPBS
Colonial House

"Mythconceptions" Quiz Answer Key

QUESTION 1) The first European colony in the New World was in what is now the state of Virginia, and it was founded by the English.

ANSWER: FALSE. The Spanish founded the first permanent European colony in North America at St. Augustine, in what is now the state of Florida. The first colony in what is now Virginia was Jamestown, and it was founded by the English in 1607.

QUESTION 2) The English colonists of the 1620s and 1630s usually wore black and white clothing. Men decorated their clothing, shoes, and hats with large buckles.

ANSWER: FALSE. Contrary to popular belief, early English colonists during the 1620s and 1630s did not usually wear black suits or skirts with white collars and cuffs. Black cloth was expensive and hard to obtain, so colonists wore black clothing only on Sundays or for other special occasions (if they had any at all). Colonists commonly wore colors such as brown, gray, green, beige, red, blue, and purple. Early colonists did not wear buckles on their shoes, hats, or clothes. Illustrators in the nineteenth century, three hundred years later, depicted the colonists with buckles on their hats and shoes because at that time, buckles were considered old-fashioned.

Buckles did came in to fashion late in the seventeenth century and early in the eighteenth century ... over 70 years after the first permanent colonies in New England. But thinking that the Pilgrims and their contemporaries wore black and white outfits adorned with buckles is like thinking that most people in 2003 dress the way people did in the early 1930s ... it simply isn't true.

QUESTION 3) All English colonists in the seventeenth century came to the New World seeking religious freedom.

ANSWER: FALSE. Some seventeenth century English colonists came to the New World seeking religious freedom. Settlers founded the Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay colonies because they were unhappy with the Church of England. However, many colonists came to the New World for other reasons. Some had heard tales of fabulous riches in the New World, and hoped to find huge quantities of gold and silver. Many colonists came to escape poverty in England, and dreamed of owning their own houses and farms. Wealthier colonists had often provided large sums of money to the companies which journeyed to the New World, and wanted to keep an eye on their investments. Colonists also recruited others -- such as blacksmiths and barrel makers -- because of their skills or trades. Finally, some people left England simply to find adventure and new opportunities.

QUESTION 4) The "Pilgrims" founded the first colony in the area now known as "New England."

ANSWER: FALSE. The "Pilgrims," a group of English separatists who later became associated with the "First Thanksgiving," arrived in the area now known as New England in 1620 and founded the Plymouth colony. However, in 1607, an earlier group of settlers created a colony called Popham, in what is now the state of Maine. These colonists were members of the "northern branch" of the Virginia Company. The "southern branch" of the Company founded Jamestown in present-day Virginia that same year.

QUESTION 5) The "Pilgrims" were "Puritans" who were seeking to "purify" the Church of England.

ANSWER: FALSE. The "Pilgrims" and Puritans were two separate groups, who had different beliefs about religious reform. In 1532, England's King Henry VIII withdrew the Church of England from the jurisdiction of the Catholic Church in Rome. Throughout the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, differing religious beliefs developed among Protestants in England. One group sought to "purify" the Church, and make modifications to its existing structure. This group came to be known as "Puritans." Another group felt that they should completely separate from the Church of England, and make their own decisions regarding religion, church structure, and worship. This group is historically known as "Separatists." The "Pilgrims" were a group of Separatists. To complicate matters even more, the Pilgrims did not refer to themselves as Pilgrims; that label became popular long after their arrival in the New World.

QUESTION 6) An "Indian princess" named Pocahontas rescued early colonist Captain John Smith from certain death, and later fell in love with him.

ANSWER: FALSE. Pocahontas was the daughter of Powhatan, an Algonquian Indian chief. Her real name was Mataoka, and "Pocahontas" was a nickname which, roughly translated, means "little troublemaker." When she was eleven or twelve years old, the Virginia Company, led by Captain John Smith, arrived in the New World to found the Jamestown colony. Not long afterward, Smith reported, he was kidnapped by Indians, who took him to their village and prepared to club him to death. At the last possible second, Pocahontas ran to Smith and protected him from the clubs. Powhatan then announced that he and Smith would be friends, and that Smith would be his adopted son. Many historians have speculated that the Indians never intended to kill Smith, and that his kidnapping was part of an adoption ritual. Historians suspect that Smith invented the story about Pocahontas saving him, and it's even more suspicious because Smith reported that Indian women saved his life on several other occasions. At any rate, there is not much evidence to suggest that there was ever a romantic relationship between Smith and Pocahontas. Pocahontas later married another colonist, John Rolfe, and traveled to England, where she met King James I and the rest of the royal family. She died at the age of 22 and was buried in a churchyard in Gravesend, England.

QUESTION 7) Early English colonists lived in log cabins.

ANSWER: FALSE. Swedish immigrants introduced the "traditional" log cabin design of notched and interlocking logs to America in the 1770s, long after the earliest colonists. Many early English settlers lived in "wattle and daub" cottages. Colonists sawed thin boards, or clapboards, from logs and used them to frame the walls of their homes. The interior walls of the houses were then infilled with wattle, a woven network of thin branches and saplings, and the wattle was covered with daub, a mixture of clay, sand, and straw. Some colonists also mixed animal manure into it. Daub was important in insulating the houses against the long New England winters.

QUESTION 8) After traveling over 2,700 miles from England to the New World, the "Pilgrims" first came ashore on Plymouth Rock and established their permanent colony.

ANSWER: FALSE. After completing their journey of over 2,700 miles on the Mayflower (traveling at a speed of two miles per hour), the Pilgrims first anchored in the harbor of present-day Provincetown, Massachusetts, on November 11, 1620. Over a month later, the Pilgrims selected the location for their new colony, which they named Plymouth, at the site of an abandoned Indian village. However, at the time, none of the Pilgrims mentioned stepping onto the land at a rock or boulder. The first mention of Plymouth Rock as the "landing place" of the Pilgrims didn't happen until over one hundred years later. In 1741, an elderly resident of Plymouth named Thomas Faunce identified a large boulder on the beach as the spot where the Pilgrims first made landfall. Faunce's father, who arrived in Plymouth three years after the original Pilgrims, was told about the Rock by one of the original colonists. Since none of the original Pilgrims wrote about the Rock when describing their arrival, and since Thomas Faunce's story was a third-hand account 121 years later, there is no way to know for certain if the Plymouth Rock story is true. However, the Rock is an important symbol of the courage and determination of early colonists; it currently stands in Pilgrim Memorial State Park in Plymouth, and thousands of tourists visit it each year.

QUESTION 9) Early colonists celebrated the first Thanksgiving in November 1621, and it has been an annual holiday in North America ever since, except during the years of the American Civil War (1861-1865).

ANSWER: FALSE. Sometime during the fall of 1621, the colonists who had survived the first winter in the Plymouth Colony held a harvest celebration. It may have been in November. Or possibly October. Perhaps it was in September. No one really knows for sure. The harvest celebration consisted of feasting and games. The colonists may have eaten turkey, but more likely they had lobster and eel. There were definitely no mashed potatoes, and the colonists did not refer to the celebration as "Thanksgiving." There is no record of a harvest festival in the Colony for the next few years.

Until the middle of the nineteenth century, just over 150 years ago, no one associated the early colonists -- or Pilgrims -- with "Thanksgiving." It began as a local New England holiday that celebrated community, harvest, and bounty. Colonial (and later, state) governors picked a day each autumn that was designated as a Day of Thanksgiving. As settlers moved westward, days of Thanksgiving were held in new colonies, territories, and states, but it was not an official annual holiday. Pilgrims were first linked to Thanksgiving when a first-hand account of the 1621 harvest festival was discovered and published in 1841.

In 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln proclaimed an annual Day of Thanksgiving on the last Thursday of November. By the end of the nineteenth century, with the "Wild West" being settled, Americans felt comfortable with the idea of their Pilgrim forefathers dining with Indians, and the colonists became more closely identified with the holiday. Images of the "First Thanksgiving" were used to teach recent immigrants about the United States.

In 1939, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt moved Thanksgiving to the third Thursday in November, to give shoppers and merchants and extra week of holiday shopping time. The date change ultimately proved unpopular, and in 1941, Thanksgiving was moved back to the fourth Thursday in November.

QUESTION 10) The weapon of choice for English colonists during the 1620s was a gun called a blunderbuss, which featured a thick and bell-shaped barrel.

ANSWER: FALSE. Though many people usually associate swords and armor with knights and medieval times, early colonists also used them for defense and protection. In addition to their swords, many colonists carried knives or daggers as their weapons of choice. While the blunderbuss was in existence at the time, colonists were most familiar with matchlock and flintlock muskets, which were large and complicated. Some guns of the period were so heavy that they required placing the barrel in a supporting stand before firing!

QUESTION 11) Early English colonists developed strict laws and harsh punishments for those who broke them.

ANSWER: TRUE. Early English colonists developed an elaborate system of laws, fines, punishments, and public humiliations to keep order in the New World. In Plymouth Colony, colonists could be put to death for crimes such as murder, practicing witchcraft, arson, rape, and adultery. Colonists who broke the laws could be publicly whipped or placed in the public stocks, a wooden frame in which the criminal's head and hands were locked. Colonists could also be fined for cursing, missing church services, lying, or defying their parents. Serious offenders could be forced wear badges or cloth letters identifying their crimes; failure to wear these identifying badges in public resulted in even more severe punishments.

QUESTION 12) Early English colonists viewed alcohol and tobacco as instruments of the devil and banned them from the colonies.

ANSWER: FALSE. Heck, no! Men, women, children, church officials, EVERYONE in the early colonies drank alcoholic beverages. Many colonists thought that alcohol was helpful in preventing disease. Colonists viewed water suspiciously, and rightly believed that unpurified water could cause illness and even death. Some colonists were later surprised to discover that their children felt better when drinking water instead of beer! However, colonists frowned upon excessive consumption of alcohol and public drunkenness. One colonist in the Massachusetts Bay Colony's repeated offenses required him to "wear a red 'D' [for drunkard] around his neck for a year."

Smoking tobacco was not as widely accepted, but many colonists smoked. With tobacco being grown and exported from the Colonies, it was often available and people did use it. However, unlike alcohol consumption, which some colonists believed to be approved by the Bible, there were no benefits to smoking. Several colonies developed anti-smoking laws because of the fire risks smokers posed to houses, barns, thatched roofs, and haystacks.

QUESTION 13) Colonists in New England were friends with Indians and did not fight them, as settlers did later in the American West.

ANSWER: FALSE. Saying that the colonists and the Indians were "friends" is a tricky subject. In many colonies, the colonists and Indians interacted, traded, and even socialized with each other. For instance, 90 Wampanoag Indian men attended the Pilgrims' 1621 harvest festival ... but they weren't "invited"; they showed up to see what the noise was all about. "Peaceful" relationships were largely based on trade and commerce. To say that they were "friends" is difficult. Colonists frequently viewed the Indians as "heathens" and "savages," who were below them intellectually and culturally. While many colonies enjoyed peaceful relationships with Indians, there were also conflicts and wars. The first "war" between New England colonists and Indians was 1637's Pequot War in southern Connecticut.

QUESTION 14) Enslaved Africans arrived in Colonial America before the Mayflower did.

ANSWER: TRUE. In 1619, a Dutch ship carrying 20 Africans arrived in Virginia's Jamestown Colony, to be sold as indentured servants. People of African descent were soon in both northern and southern colonies.

The majority of America's first colonists were indentured servants. Unlike enslaved Africans, white indentured servants voluntarily came to the colonies, signing a contract pledging servitude in exchange for passage to the New World. Servitude lasted between four and eight years.

QUESTION 15) Early English colonists such as the Pilgrims introduced Christian holidays such as Christmas and Easter to North America.

ANSWER: FALSE. The Pilgrims only recognized three types of holidays as approved by the Bible: the Sabbath, days of thanksgiving, and fast days. The Sabbath was carefully observed each week. Days of fasting and thanksgiving -- which both focused on prayer -- were proclaimed by colonial governors in response to droughts, wars, sickness, or good harvests. The "First Thanksgiving" associated with the Pilgrims -- feasting with the neighbors -- was actually a harvest festival, and not a religious thanksgiving day. Celebrations of Christmas and Easter were viewed as holidays constructed by the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church.

Thirteen / WNET New York PBS Online Colonial House is a production of Thirteen/WNET New York.
© 2003-04 Educational Broadcasting Corporation. All Rights Reserved.
Close Window