Majolica plato, c. 1570s

Majolica plato, c. 1570s

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Majolica plato, c. 1570s

Bermuda was discovered in 1505 by Juan de Bermúdez, a Spanish captain who spotted the uninhabited island on his way back to Spain after dropping off slaves in the West Indies. Bermuda, however, was not colonised for another century, although numerous ships came to grief on her treacherous encircling reefs. This Ligurian blue on blue majolica plate was recovered from the San Pedro, which shipwrecked at Bermuda in 1596 on her return voyage to Spain from Cartagena, Columbia.

Map of Bermuda, c.1630
By Johannes De Laet

Map of Bermuda, c.1630
By...

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Map of Bermuda, c.1630
By Johannes De Laet

After Bermuda’s settlement by the English in 1612, Bermuda was prominently featured in many maps, because it served as a colonial way station. English merchant ships and privateers stopped at Bermuda to re-provision, discharge cargo and passengers, and load colonial products bound for England and the American and West Indian colonies.

This rare map of the northeastern seaboard of America is the first time the name Manhattan was included on a printed map.

Silver Admiralty oar, 1697

Silver Admiralty oar, 1697

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Silver Admiralty oar, 1697

This sterling silver mace of the Bermuda Court of Vice Admiralty was made in 1697 by London goldsmith Anthony Nelme, and brought to Bermuda in 1701 by Governor Benjamin Bennett. Bennett, who arrived after a period of lawlessness and weak government, also used the oar in the absence of any other token of his legal supremacy, and it became the ceremonial mace of the Island Council. The Court of Vice Admiralty had jurisdiction over ship and sea related matters, including crimes at sea, piracy, privateering, ship wrecks and other claims against ships and their owners.

Bermuda sloop model, 2005
By Deryck Foster

Bermuda sloop model, 2005
By...

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Bermuda sloop model, 2005
By Deryck Foster

The Bermuda Sloop was the foundation of Bermuda’s 18th-century maritime economy. These single-masted, cedar vessels were fast, light and resistant to rot and shipworm, making them ideal trading vessels. They were highly prized by merchants, as they could carry heavier cargoes, draw less water and were much faster than rival carriers. They were equally sought after by privateers, pirates and navies for the same reasons.

Silver and glass brooch, 1814

Silver and glass brooch, 1814

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Silver and glass brooch, 1814

Rear Admiral Cockburn gave this brooch to a Mrs. Outerbridge to commemorate her husband’s daring feat of piloting the Royal Naval fleet through the difficult North Rock Passage during the War of 1812. The fleet carried the troops responsible for the attack on Washington in August 1814, when the British occupied the city and set fire to many public buildings, including the White House and the Capitol. Pilot Outerbridge was likely a King’s Pilot, one of a select few entrusted with bringing the Royal Navy’s valuable and vulnerable warships through Bermuda’s treacherous reefs.

Bill of sale, 1832

Bill of sale, 1832

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Bill of sale, 1832

Buying Freedom: this bill of sale from shipwright William Hugh Peniston documents freeman shipwright Stephen Benjamin Richardson’s purchase of his wife Violet, on December 13, 1832 for 30 pounds. One year later, the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833 passed, ending slavery in the British Empire, including Bermuda, on August 1, 1834.

The seal of St. Paul’s College, c. 1853

The seal of St. Paul’s College,...

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The seal of St. Paul’s College, c. 1853

The seal is a remnant of the first venture in racially integrated schooling in Bermuda. St. Paul’s was established in 1853 through the efforts of Reverend William C. Dowding, and was an inspiration to the founders of The Berkeley Educational Society some 25 years later. It offered a curriculum of Latin, Greek, Euclid, French, Spanish, Geography, History, Drawing and Vocal Music, but closed three years later in 1856.

Whaling ladle, c. late 19th century

Whaling ladle, c. late 19th century...

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Whaling ladle, c. late 19th century

Shore whaling in Bermuda was carried out for 340 years as a seasonal small-scale industry. Whales provided oil for lamps, bones for tools, meat for food, skin for leather and occasionally ambergris which commanded a high price in the overseas perfume and cosmetics industries. Once a whale carcass was stripped of its meat—known as “sea beef”—the blubber was boiled in vats to extract oil for burning in lamps. This ladle was used to skim the oil from the vat as it rose to the surface.

Golden Rule, 1849

Golden Rule, 1849

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Golden Rule, 1849

In 1849, 58 emigrants from the island of Madeira arrived in Bermuda on the brigantine Golden Rule. This, the first of many such voyages from Madeira and other Portuguese Atlantic islands, was underwritten by the Bermuda government to promote the importation of agricultural labourers. Thousands of Portuguese immigrants followed over the next century and a half.

Standard weight, 1888

Standard weight, 1888

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Standard weight, 1888

A set of standard weights was kept in every parish in Bermuda to check the accuracy of weights used by local merchants for measuring bulk goods such as flour, sugar and grain. The ‘C A’ stamp with the broad arrow indicates that the measure was procured for the Bermuda Government by the Crown Agents, who acted on behalf of the colonies.

Letter from Rudyard Kipling, 1895

Letter from Rudyard Kipling, 1895

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Letter from Rudyard Kipling, 1895

The famous English author Rudyard Kipling, best known for writing Jungle Book, visited Bermuda in 1895 and stayed at the Princess Hotel. Writers, artists, socialites and intellectuals were making their way to the island after reports of Princess Louise’s visit in 1883 piqued the interest of America’s elite. This letter from Kipling was written to his friend Captain E T Bayley, who had left Bermuda a matter of days before Kipling arrived. Kipling wrote about his disappointment and noted that “Bermuda must be a particularly god forsaken hole as a military station but it is amusing to play in for a few weeks…”

Cedar bugle, 1901

Cedar bugle, 1901

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Cedar bugle, 1901

During the Boer War, the British POW camps in South Africa were at bursting point, and Britain began to use its colonies for housing surplus prisoners. In 1901, 4,619 Boer prisoners of war were shipped to Bermuda to be incarcerated on the islands of the Great Sound. This cedar bugle was carved by a POW detained on Burts Island, which was reserved for the “Irreconcilables”— the prisoners who protested most ardently against British rule in South Africa.

Photograph of building the Dockyard extension, 1902

Photograph of building the Dockyard...

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Photograph of building the Dockyard extension, 1902

In 1900, a wave of West Indian immigrants arrived in Bermuda to work on a massive renovation and extension of the Royal Naval Dockyard, involving land reclamation, harbour dredging, and bridge, breakwater and wharf construction. The ‘Dockyard Extension Works’ took five years and required scores of skilled carpenters, masons and other labourers. By 1901, West Indians numbered almost 20 percent of Bermuda’s population.

Bermuda Race trophy, 1909

Bermuda Race trophy, 1909

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Bermuda Race trophy, 1909

For over a century, sailors have raced to Bermuda from the US east coast in the Bermuda Race, the oldest regularly scheduled amateur ocean race. It was started in 1906 by Thomas Fleming Day, the controversial editor of The Rudder magazine, who set out to prove that amateur sailors could race offshore in boats under 80ft in length. This 1909 trophy was presented by George S. Runk, Esq., and was won by Dr. Leedom Sharp on the schooner Restless.

The Purple Heart Medal, c.1945

The Purple Heart Medal, c.1945...

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The Purple Heart Medal, c.1945

Bermudian Sgt Granville Burton Williams served in Co B, 317th Eng Bn, 92nd Inf Div of the US Army (the Buffalo Soldiers), the only African American unit to see action in World War 2. Williams was poshumously awarded the Purple Heart after he lost his life on May 2, 1945 in northern Italy while he and others in the 317th Engineer Corp were clearing mine fields. That same day, a ceasefire officially ended hostilities in Italy.

Public carriage licence, c. 1950

Public carriage licence, c. 1950...

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Public carriage licence, c. 1950

Horse and carriage rides were an iconic part of the 20th century Bermuda tourism experience, and a regular mode of travel for wealthier Bermudians, until the passage of the Motor Car Act in 1946. Public carriages—defined as horse drawn vehicles for hire—were required under law to be registered: this licence plate indicated that the carriage had passed inspection and was structurally and mechanically sound and in reasonably good order and condition.

Pig statuette, c.1960
By Evelyn Fay ‘Byllee’ Lang (1908-1966)

Pig statuette, c.1960
By Evelyn...

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Pig statuette, c.1960
By Evelyn Fay ‘Byllee’ Lang (1908-1966)

Byllee Lang, an established Canadian sculptor, arrived in 1945 for a vacation and fell in love with Bermuda. The following year, she made the island her home. For over 20 years she was an integral part of the arts scene, breaking down racial barriers by holding Bermuda’s first mixed-race art classes in her studios, at a time when schools were segregated. She trained and inspired a generation of local artists including Vivenne Gardner, Shirley Pearman, Elizabeth Ann Trott, and Carlos Dowling.

Swizzle Stick, c. 1960

Swizzle Stick, c. 1960

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Swizzle Stick, c. 1960

Swizzle sticks were typically used in hotel bars in the mid-20th century—the Swizzle Inn at Blue Hole is said to have served its first rum swizzle in 1932. This unusual five-pronged example, made out of a Surinam cherry twig, was used to mix drinks at the Bermudiana Hotel in Hamilton.