Ship Model, Susan Constant

On April 26, 1607, three passenger ships reached the shores of modern-day Virginia. The largest, named the Susan Constant, carried 54 members of a 105-man colonization mission. Arriving thirteen years before the Pilgrims landed at what is now Plymouth, Mass., this group of Englishmen came in search of gold and glory in the New World under the direction of the Virginia Company. Their founding of Jamestown began a long and checkered chapter in American colonial history.
Built in 1605 near London, and leased from Dapper, Wheatley, Colthurst and Partners, the Susan Constant was barely a year old when the Jamestown passengers spotted land near Cape Henry at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. Under the command of Captain Christopher Newport, the journey from London to Virginia took approximately four and a half months. Following its departure on December 20, 1606, the Susan Constant spent six weeks floating idly in the English Channel, waiting for the right winds to carry the passengers to their new lives. Unlike the colonists, the Susan Constant did not stay in Virginia, but sailed back to England filled with timber.
In the past, there has been some confusion over whether the ship’s name was Susan or Sarah Constant. According to a 1625 manuscript transcribed by Rev. Samuel Purchas, when discussing the journey of the Jamestown settlers, His Majesty King James I’s Council on Virginia referred to a ship named Sarah Constant. However, multiple accounts given by the original colonists, as well as the leasing companies, indentify the ship as Susan Constant or, more simply, Susan. No record of a Sarah Constant has ever been found in sources from the time period, and historians have since chalked the confusion up to a clerical error on the part of the Council.
In 1991, the Commonwealth of Virginia financed a $2.14 million life-sized reproduction of the Susan Constant. The ship took a short tour of the Chesapeake Bay area in 2007 as part of Jamestown’s 400th Anniversary Celebration, and can now be seen in the Jamestown Settlement National Park.
This model of the Susan Constant was given to the Smithsonian in 1998 as a gift from its builder, John W. Chapman.
Object Name
ship model
model, ship
Date made
Susan Constant departed London
Susan Constant arrived in Jamestown
life-size reproduction was built
manuscript transcribed discussing ship and voyage
captained the ship
Newport, Christopher
leased the ship
Dapper, Wheatley, Colthurst and Partners
transcribed a manuscript
Purchas, Samuel
Chapman, John W.
Physical Description
wood (overall material)
textile (part material)
overall: 15 in x 14 1/2 in x 6 in; 38.1 cm x 36.83 cm x 15.24 cm
Susan Constant sailed from
United Kingdom: England, London
Susan Constant sailed to
United States: Virginia, Jamestown Island, Jamestown
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Cultures & Communities
On the Water exhibit
Colonization and Settlement
See more items in
Work and Industry: Maritime
On the Water exhibit
On the Water
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Gift of John W. Chapman
Publication title
On the Water online exhibition
Publication URL
Additional Media

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