Document Bank of Virginia

Search using this query type:



Search only these record types:

Item
File
Collection

Advanced Search (Items only)

John Smith, Bust, circa 1905

Context

Although best known as the founder of the Boy Scout movement, Baden-Powell was also an artist of considerable skill.  While in South Africa, he modeled in clay as a relief from administrative duties.  The family of Baden-Powell's mother claimed descent from Captain John Smith, with whom Baden-Powell had much in common.  Both were military men, authors and key figures in British colonial affairs.  In 1906 Baden-Powell presented the bust to the commonwealth.

Captain John Smith was an English explorer that helped establish Jamestown, the first English colony in North America. Smith worked as a soldier of fortune before joining the Virginia Company of London in 1606. He sailed to the New World on the Susan Constant, one of three boats containing crew and supplies, and during this journey Smith was arrested for mutiny by the ship’s captain, Christopher Newport. Smith was nearly executed for this crime but was saved by the intercession of a chaplain and the captain of one of the sister ships.

After reaching the Chesapeake Bay in 1607 Smith served as one of the governing councilors for the new colony. His prior experience in military and survival skills proved invaluable- especially as the other councilors did not possess these experiences. The first few months of existence in the colony were extremely hard and many of Smith’s companions died of famine, illness, or Indian attacks.

In late 1607 Smith was captured by Indians and according to some of his reports he was rescued from certain death by Powhatan’s daughter Pocahontas. The accuracy of this account is not certain, as early accounts of his capture did not mention Pocahontas. Smith became the president of the council at Jamestown in fall of 1608 and his tenure was only moderately successful as his policies were unpopular and while Smith was able to increase conditions at the colony, the colony ultimately failed to produce enough food for the settlers to survive upon, making them dependent on trade with nearby Indians.

Smith was forced to travel back to England in 1609 after a stray match lit his powder bag and set his clothing afire, resulting in severe burns. After he left Smith’s enemies set about discrediting him in the colony and with the Virginia Company, however the period after his departure proved to be some of the most dark in Jamestown history as over 200 men died- a stark comparison to the small number of deaths during Smith’s presidency.

Citation:Baden-Powell, Robert S. S. John Smith. ca. 1905. Bronze. Virginia State Artwork Collection, Library of Virginia Visual Studies Collection.

Standards

VS.1, VS. 3, USI.1, USI. 4, USI. 5, WHII.1, WHII.4, VUS.1, VUS.2, VUS.3

Suggested Questions

Analyze: Do you think that the colony would have been successful if Smith had been executed as planned in 1607?

In Their Shoes: By yourself or with others, imagine what it was like for the settlers. Do you think that you could have survived in early Jamestown?

Social Bookmarking

Comments

Allowed tags: <p>, <a>, <em>, <strong>, <ul>, <ol>, <li>