Our Founder

Plimoth Plantation Founder Harry Hornblower

 Henry Hornblower II

He was a Bostonian by breeding and instinct, and a broker by habit and obligation, but it would be neither Boston nor finance that would claim his ultimate loyalty…he was in some sense a man possessed of a dream, some would even say a passion; for him it all began and ended not in Boston, but in Plymouth, landing place of the Pilgrims and summer home to the Hornblowers for nearly a century.

- the late Reverend Peter Gomes,
on Plimoth Plantation Founder Henry Hornblower

Besides being the idea-man behind Plimoth Plantation, Henry Hornblower II (1917-1985) was the power behind his creation. He was a charming, humorous person who loved books, intellectual stimulation, good food and wine, and relaxing companionship. He detested pomposity. He had a broad, ready smile and a no-nonsense, never-defeated approach to the many problems inherent in pursuing his dream. He was Plimoth’s greatest advocate, capable of cajoling any number of unsuspecting souls into promoting his vision worldwide.

Archaeologist Douglas Byers and Harry Hornblower at an Archaeological Excavation Site, Eastham, Massachusetts, 1935. Collection of Plimoth PlantationHarry – as he was called by all – was born into his family’s circle of high finance to which he, very reluctantly, later turned for a living. His educational background – Milton, Andover and Harvard – fostered his interest in American history and archaeology. Hornblower spent his boyhood summers at his family’s summer house in Plymouth. Ultimately his creative attention focused on Plymouth and the Pilgrims. In this manner, the story of the small and fragile colony in southeast New England, Plimoth Plantation, and its complex interrelationship with the Native Wampanoag People, became the foundation of Harry’s outdoor “living” museum.

He became fascinated by the story of the Pilgrims and their Wampanoag neighbors, and he carried out a number of archaeological excavations around the town. Eventually, it became his ambition to bring the remarkable story of Plymouth Colony and the Pilgrims’ struggle for survival to the people of America in the most effective way possible.

Founder Henry Hornblower II on Bulldozer at Current Site of Plimoth Plantation, c. 1958. Collection of Plimoth PlantationHarry imbued the museum with his exacting criteria of excellence.  He not only wanted it to be an exciting, fulfilling and challenging experience for the public and staff alike but, in the constant pursuit of new knowledge, he was determined that it maintain an historic integrity.

Harry Hornblower gave of himself, his time and his love of scholarship to further the museum’s highest ideals. He gave generously of himself and made a contribution of enduring significance for millions of people, generation upon generation.

Plimoth Plantation was Harry Hornblower's passion and his lasting legacy to the world.

Henry Hornblower with Mayflower II Captain Alan Villiers Fundraising for the Construction of the English Village, c.1958. Collection of Plimoth Plantation