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Experience Jamestown Free Enterprise

Stories of a Nation

The Virginia Company of London sponsored the voyage to the New World and the establishment of a colony for God, Gold & Glory!

In the Charter by King James I, the colonists were instructed to protect their ships from the Spaniards and pirates, sow corn and roots, build a storehouse for food, a fort, wide streets lined with houses. Other instructions included:

  • Trade with the Indians and don't offend them!
  • Hire the Indians as guides to find gold and other resources
  • Find the Northwest Passage to the Orient

The Charter even outlined a public-relations provision — "do not advertise the killing of any of your men or sickness" that might discourage other Englishmen from wanting to settle in Jamestown!

Where's the Gold?

gold coinsNo gold had been found. The Virginia Company of London was burdened by crushing debt and angry stockholders who filed lawsuits against the company. With all the bad publicity, a massive advertising campaign was launched as well as 27 books and pamphlets promoting the Jamestown venture.

Other Enterprises

Glassmaking in America began at Jamestown in 1608, and it was the Glassblowerfirst factory-made product. Glassmakers were recruited from Germany and Poland and later from Italy, but by 1624 the entire venture went bust.

Other ventures that benefited the colonists but not the stockholders included the brewing of beer, silk production, flax/linen production, utilitarian pottery, leather tanning and herbal drug treatments.

Tobacco Became Cash and The Cash Crop!

John Rolfe observed the Powhatan Indians growing tobacco, and by 1612, he was growing it in Virginia soil. Rolfe married tobacco plantPocahontas and relations between the Powhatans and Englishmen were at an all-time high for eight years!

By 1615, more than 2,300 pounds of tobacco were exported to England, and in 1616, Rolfe and Pocahontas presented King James I a pamphlet revealing tobacco as "the principal commodity of the colony."

Virginia Labor Force

Farm workers were needed to cultivate more tobacco — from the preparation of the land to the planting, curing and pressing of the leaves for shipment in hogshead barrels — and although the crop was labor-intensive, the labor need not be skilled. Thus, indentured servants and eventually slaves imported from Africa became the main labor force in Virginia.

By 1640, the tobacco export to England was about a million and a half pounds a year and was deemed superior to the Spanish weed.

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