Provincetown, MA – Portuguese Flags

The area was originally settled by the Nauset tribe, who had a settlement known as Meeshawn. Provincetown was incorporated by English settlers in 1727 after harboring ships for more than a century. Bartholomew Gosnold named Cape Cod in Provincetown Harbor in 1602. In 1620, the Pilgrims signed the Mayflower Compact when they arrived at the harbor. They agreed to settle and build a self-governing community, and then came ashore in the West End. Though the Pilgrims chose to settle across the bay in Plymouth, Provincetown enjoyed an early reputation for its fishing grounds. The “Province Lands” were first formally recognized by the union of Plymouth colony and Massachusetts Bay colony in 1692, and its first municipal government was established in 1714. The population of Provincetown remained small through most of the 18th century.

Following the American Revolution, however, Provincetown grew rapidly as a fishing and whaling center. The population was bolstered by a number of Portuguese sailors, many of whom were from the Azores, and came to live in Provincetown after being hired to work on US ships. By the 1890s, Provincetown was booming, and began to develop a resident population of writers and artists, as well as a summer tourist industry. After the 1898 Portland Gale severely damaged the town’s fishing industry, members of the town’s art community took over many of the abandoned buildings. By the early decades of the 20th century, the town had acquired an international reputation for its artistic and literary output. The Provincetown Players was an important experimental theater company formed during this period. It was an example of intellectual and artistic connections to Greenwich Village in New York that began then.


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