Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Historic business at Jamestown

For some unknown reason I grew up thinking that this country was founded by the Pilgrims in their search for religious freedom. I was quickly disabused of that silly notion after relocating a couple of miles down the road from Jamestown Island in Virginia. That's where the first permanent English settlement in the New World was established in 1607 -- 13 years before the Mayflower bumped up against Plymouth Rock.

I also discovered that spirituality was not the primary impetus behind the founding of this nation. Jamestown's colonists came here to make money and they were sponsored by the Virginia Company, which wanted a material return on its investment.

Jamestown has been in the news the past couple of years because archaeologist Bill Kelso discovered the remains of the original 1607 fort, a site most experts believed had eroded into the river long ago. He and his team have recovered thousands of artifacts that relate to our entrepreneurial roots, including the nation's first 'factory,' containing evidence of industrial activities such as glassmaking, metallurgy, pipemaking, as well as an accounting office. All of which have led Kelso to conclude in his new book that the first Jamestown settlers were not as lazy as historians have previously suggested.

You'll surely hear more about Jamestown this year, the 400th anniversary of the landing (if you didn't already notice). It's worth a visit if you're in the area -- for the amazing job that's been done to present the results of the James Fort dig to the general public and to meditate on the business roots of this nation.

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