History Timeline 1500s

Above: Painting, entitled Discovery of the Mississippi, by William H. Powell, 1847, is located in the Rotunda of the Capitol in Washington, D.C. Right: Giovanni de Verrazzano, 1889, engraving by F. Allcarini, Tocchi, courtesy Wikipedia Commons.

Giovanni da Verrazzano

Pre-Revolution Timeline - The 1500s


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  • Timeline

  • Detail - 1579

    June 17, 1579 - Francis Drake claims the lands of California for Great Britain and Queen Elizabeth I, landing in Drake's Bay and naming it New Albion. Drake is on his voyage around the world in the ship, the Golden Hind.

    Sir Francis Drake

    Francis Drake was not Magellan, the first to circumnavigate the globe, but he was the second, and during his voyage from England and back, his discoveries in the Americas and Orient sometimes get overlooked. That overlook includes his short foray along the coast of what is today's California, and his friendly meeting with the Indians of northern California, in an area he called Drake's Bay or Nova (New) Albion. Yes, he claimed that area for Great Britain, but did not try to subjugate the natives. There was no slavery or altercation during the six weeks near what would become San Franciso. The exploration gave gifts to the Indians; they gave some back. Unfortunately, this was not the normal occurence for many of Drake's adventure where friendly relations with natives did not occur.

    Drake was thirty-seven years old when he left on November 15, 1577 from Plymouth, England on his circumnavigation trip. He had been to the Americas before, battled the Spanish on the Isthmus of Panama, and was considered a hero in England. The Spanish did not think the same; they thought pirate. After a month of trouble at sea around the English isles, Drake's expedition plied the Atlantic Ocean with six ships, including his flagship Pelican (later renamed the Golden Hind) and one hundred and sixty-four men. His official reason for the trip from the Queen; an expedition against the Spanish on the Pacific Coast of the Americas. He reached the coast of Argentina at San Juilian and stayed the winter; by winter's end he was down to three ships upon entering the Straits of Magellan.

    It was September of 1578 when he reached the Pacific. Now down to one ship (one destroyed in a storm, the other returning to England), the Pelican (now Golden Hind) and Drake's crew attacked Spanish ports, towns, and ships. One ship contained 25,000 pesos of Peruvian gold and L7 million pounds of Spanish money. He pursued other treasure ships thought to be returning from Manila to Acapulco, but did not find them, instead landing in northern California on June 17, 1579.

    The New Albion (Nova Albion) Landing

    Reaching the 38th parallet, Drake lay port in what would be termed Drake's Bay, claiming the land for Great Britain, and calling it Nova Albion (New Britain). He met the Coast Miwok Indians, established friendly relations, and reportedly stayed six weeks, leaving on July 23. Just where was New Albion? In 2012, the United States Department of the Interior recognized the landing location in Drakes Bay with the establishment of a National Historic Landmark at Point Reyes, part of Point Reyes National Seashore.

    Excerpt from original account by Drake's Chaplain Francis Fletcher.

    "The next day, after our comming to anchor in the aforesaid harbour, the people of the countrey shewed themselues, sending off a man with great expedition to vs in a canow. Who being yet but a little from the shoare, and a great way from our ship, spake to vs continually as he came rowing on. And at last at a reasonable distance staying himselfe, he began more solemnely a long and tedious oration, after his manner : vsing in the deliuerie thereof many gestures and signes, mouing his hands, turning his head and body many wayes ; and after his oration ended, with great shew of reuerence and submission returned backe to shoare againe. He shortly came againe the second time in like manner, and so the third time, when he brought with him (as a present from the rest) a bunch of feathers, much like the feathers of a blacke crow, very neatly and artificially gathered vpon a string, and drawne together into a round bundle ; being verie cleane and finely cut, and bearing in length an equall proportion one with another ; a speciall cognizance (as wee afterwards obserued) which they that guard their kings person weare on their heads. With this also he brought a little basket made of rushes, and filled with an herbe which they called Tahdh. Both which being tyed to a short rodde, he cast into our boate. Our Generall intended to haue recompenced him immediatly with many good things he would haue bestowed on him; but entring into the boate to delitier the same, he could not be drawne to receiue them by any meanes, saue one hat, which being cast into the water out of the ship, he tooke vp (refusing vtterly to meddle with any other thing, though it were vpon a board put off vnto him) and so presently made his returne. After which time our boate could row no Avay, but wondring at vs as at gods, they would follow the same with admiration."

    By the 21st of June, the Golden Hind was brought closer to shore for repairs, forts and tents were contructed for protection, and the relationship continued with the Miwok Indians. It was suggested that the natives thought of the explorers as Gods. In another excerpt, the General (Francis Drake) claimed the land for Great Britain.

    "This country our Generall named Albion, and that for two causes; the one in respect of the white bancks and cliffes, which lie toward the sea; the other, that it might haue some afiinity, euen in name also, with our own country, which was sometime so called.

    Before we went from thence, our Generall caused to be set vp a monument of our being there, as also of her maiesties and successors right and title to that kingdome ; namely, a plate of brasse, fast nailed to a great and firme post ; whereon is engrauen her graces name, and the day and yeare of our arriuall there, and of the free giuing vp of the prouince and kingdome, both by the king and people, into her maiesties hands : together with her highnesse picture and armes, in a piece of sixpence currant English monie, shewing itselfe by a hole made of purpose through the plate ', vnderneath was likewise engrauen the name of our Generall, etc."

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    New Albion and It's Later Import

    Drake and the crew of the Golden Hind would head west across the Pacific Ocean after leaving New Albion, traverse that sea, explore the Indonesian archipelago, then return to England in September of 1580. The establishment and claim at New Albion would be used to establish English colonial charters for the next two centuries on a sea to sea American continent, first at Roanoke in 1584 and Jamestown in 1607. Later it would be used by English explorers and colonists, including George Vancouver, in their claims of territory in Oregon and Canada.

    Image above: Engraving of Sir Francis Drake, Date Unknown, W. Hall. Courtesy Library of Congress. Below: Indians greeting Francis Drake in California, 1599, Theodr De Bry's Historia Americas. Courtesy Library of Congress. Source info: Library of Congress; drake.mcn.org, "Francis Drake in Nova Albion" by Oliver Seeler; "The World Encompassed" based on the notes of Francis Drake's Chaplain, Francis Fletcher, 1628; Archive.org; Wikipedia.

    Francis Drake greeting the Indians

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