"In the Beginning, all America was Virginia."
William Byrd II
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Contact and Conflict Gallery

Virtual Tour of Contact and Conflict
Take a virtual tour of this gallery by clicking on the buttons above to move left, right, up, down, or to zoom in. Select "Scenes" to see other sections of the Story of Virginia exhibition.
Abduction of Pocahontas
In this video Program Coordinator, Caroline Legros discusses the abduction of Pocahontas in the Virginia Historical Society's long term exhibition, The Story of Virginia.
Who was Pocahontas?
In this video School Program Coordinator, Caroline Legros, looks at the life of Pocahontas in the Virginia Historical Society's long-term exhibition "The Story of Virginia, an American Experience."
The Death of Pocahontas
In this video Program Coordinator, Caroline Legros discusses the death of Pocahontas in the Virginia Historical Society's long term exhibition, The Story of Virginia.
John Smith's "General History of Virginia"
In this video, VHS Vice President for Collections E. Lee Shepard discusses John Smith's "The Generall Historie of Virginia, New England, and the Summer Isles."
Pipe tomahawk - facing left Enter Fullscreen More information
Pipe tomahawk - facing left
Pipe tomahawks like this were examples of cultural interaction. The English took the Indian idea of the tomahawk, but by inlaying it with German silver, brass, and copper, they made it a fashion accessory for the English gentlemen pioneers who played a large role in westward exploration. This tomahawk was found in Clarksburg (now West Virginia), but probably was made in the Valley of Virginia by a "Kentucky rifle" maker with inlaying skills, c.1780–1800. (VHS accession number: 1998.2)
Pipe tomahawk - facing right Enter Fullscreen More information
Pipe tomahawk - facing right
Pipe tomahawks like this were examples of cultural interaction. The English took the Indian idea of the tomahawk, but by inlaying it with German silver, brass, and copper, they made it a fashion accessory for the English gentlemen pioneers who played a large role in westward exploration. This tomahawk was found in Clarksburg (now West Virginia), but probably was made in the Valley of Virginia by a "Kentucky rifle" maker with inlaying skills, c.1780–1800. (VHS accession number: 1998.2)
Elizabeth I Enter Fullscreen More information
Elizabeth I
Elizabeth I (1533–1603), queen of England, never married and was known as the virgin queen. The first English attempts to colonize North America were made under her patronage. (VHS accession number: 1990.81)
Captain John Smith Enter Fullscreen More information
Captain John Smith
Captain John Smith (1580–1631), a soldier of fortune, for centuries was praised as the savior of the first permanent English settlement in North America, but more recently has been attacked as a conquistador, oppressor of native peoples, and agent of neo-feudalism. In fact, Smith was a materialist who belittled talk of moral goals, but he was comparatively enlightened in his dealings with the Indians. His vision of a more equal society based on widespread land ownership was rejected by the Virginia Company. (VHS call number: Rare F229 S7 G3 1624 oversize)
Pocahontas by Thomas Sully Enter Fullscreen More information
Pocahontas by Thomas Sully
Thomas Sully gives us Pocahontas at what might have been construed as her best moment—after her absorption into English culture and before the fateful trip to England from which she did not return. Pocahontas presents herself as a person of remarkable refinement and grace. Conscious of brewing sectionalism, Sully devised an image that would please Virginians, and he donated this portrait to the Virginia Historical Society, perhaps as a way of winning new patrons in Pocahontas's native state. (VHS accession number: 1852.2)
Pocahontas by Simon Van de Passe Enter Fullscreen More information
Pocahontas by Simon Van de Passe in 1616
The only life portrait of Pocahontas (1595–1617) and the only credible image of her, was engraved by Simon Van de Passe in 1616 while she was in England, and was published in John Smith's Generall Historie of Virginia in 1624. She appears stiff in Jacobean court attire, but the costume probably hid tattooing and provided the chaste image wanted by the Virginia Company, which sponsored her trip and probably commissioned the print. These are the facts about Pocahontas that are known for sure. As a child she played in 1607 with the settlers' children in the streets of Jamestown. Soon after, she befriended the captured English captain John Smith and probably pleaded with her father to spare his life. Thereafter, Smith and Pocahontas had a special, father-daughter relationship. Beginning in early 1608 Pocahontas led delegations of Indians who brought food to the near-starving Jamestown settlers. Then Pocahontas warned Smith of another plot to kill him. In 1610 she married an Indian named Kocoum. In 1613 she was kidnapped by Englishmen, and eventually was baptized into Christianity. In 1614 she married the Englishman John Rolfe; the couple had a child, Thomas. In the spring of 1616 the three Rolfes departed for England, where Pocahontas met King James I. Pocahontas and Rolfe were awarded funds to return to the colony to establish a college to Christianize the Powhatan Indians, but on beginning the trip home she died "unexpectedly," in March 1617, at Gravesend, England, where she is buried. (VHS accession number: 1992.40)
The Abduction of Pocahontas Enter Fullscreen More information
The Abduction of Pocahontas, c. 1910, by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris
"The Abduction of Pocahontas" recreates the arrival of Captain Samuel Argall (at left) at Jamestown with Pocahontas as his captive. He had kidnapped her in 1613 "for the ransoming of so many Englishmen as were prisoners with Powhatan: as also to get ... armes and tools ... [and] some quantities of Corne, for the colonies relief." The Europeans, who regarded Pocahontas as a princess, were surprised that her father did not redeem her, but in a matrilineal society she could not inherit her father's power and so was relatively unimportant. (VHS accession number: 1996.49.14)
Slave shackles Enter Fullscreen More information
Slave shackles
These wrist shackles date from the late 1600s or early 1700s, and were the type worn by Africans who were carried across the Atlantic on slaving vessels. Between 1701 and 1760, historians estimate that over 188,600 African slaves were brought to North America. (VHS accession number: 1997.89)
Dugout Canoe Enter Fullscreen More information
Dugout Canoe
The dugout canoe was an Indian concept but one so well suited to the Virginia rivers that Europeans and Africans also made them from the 1600s through the 1800s. Notice in this John White engraving the Indian technique of using fire to burn and shape a log into a canoe. This process became so much easier with metal tools that Indians soon adopted European technology. (VHS call number: Rare Books F229 H27 1608L)
Title page of book written by Olaudah Equiano. Enter Fullscreen More information
Title page of book written by Olaudah Equiano.
Snatched from his Ibo village in Nigeria at the age of eleven, Equiano was transported to Barbados, Virginia, and finally England, where he gained his freedom in 1766. He is the author of the only memoir by an enslaved African brought to Virginia, The Interesting Narrative of Olaudah Equiano. After marrying an Englishwoman in 1792, Equiano converted to Methodism and became an active member of the abolitionist movement. (VHS call number: Rare HT869 E64 1809)
Silver Badge for "Machotick" tribe - Front Enter Fullscreen More information
Silver Badge for "Machotick" tribe - Front
Silver badge made by order of the Virginia General Assembly c.1662, each engraved "Ye King of" on one side and the other engraved with the name of the tribe, "Machotick" [Machodoc]. Badges served as passports for Indians visiting English settlements. They were fashioned of copper for warriors and silver for chiefs. This and the "Patomeck" [Potomac] medals were found on the same Caroline County farm, the Potomac badge in 1832 and the Machodoc badge in 1964. (VHS accession number 1965.12)
Silver Badge for "Machotick" tribe - Back Enter Fullscreen More information
Silver Badge for "Machotick" tribe - Back
Silver badge made by order of the Virginia General Assembly c.1662, each engraved "Ye King of" on one side and the other engraved with the name of the tribe, "Machotick" [Machodoc]. Badges served as passports for Indians visiting English settlements. They were fashioned of copper for warriors and silver for chiefs. This and the "Patomeck" [Potomac] medals were found on the same Caroline County farm, the Potomac badge in 1832 and the Machodoc badge in 1964. (VHS accession number 1965.12)
Silver Badge for "Patomeck" tribe - Front Enter Fullscreen More information
Silver Badge for "Patomeck" tribe - Front
Silver badge made by order of the Virginia General Assembly c.1662, engraved "Ye King of" on one side and the other engraved with the name of the tribe, "Patomeck" [Potomac]. Badges served as passports for Indians visiting English settlements. They were fashioned of copper for warriors and silver for chiefs. This and the "Machotick" [Machodoc] medals were found on the same Caroline County farm, the Potomac badge in 1832 and the Machodoc badge in 1964. (VHS accession number 1842.1)
Silver Badge for "Patomeck" tribe - Back Enter Fullscreen More information
Silver Badge for "Patomeck" tribe - Back
Silver badge made by order of the Virginia General Assembly c.1662, engraved "Ye King of" on one side and the other engraved with the name of the tribe, "Patomeck" [Potomac]. Badges served as passports for Indians visiting English settlements. They were fashioned of copper for warriors and silver for chiefs. This and the "Machotick" [Machodoc] medals were found on the same Caroline County farm, the Potomac badge in 1832 and the Machodoc badge in 1964. (VHS accession number 1842.1)
Virtual Tour of Contact and Conflict
Abduction of Pocahontas
Who was Pocahontas?
The Death of Pocahontas
John Smith's "General History of
Pipe tomahawk - facing left
Pipe tomahawk - facing left
Pipe tomahawk - facing right
Pipe tomahawk - facing right
Elizabeth I
Elizabeth I
Captain John Smith
Captain John Smith
Pocahontas by Thomas Sully
Pocahontas by Thomas Sully
Pocahontas by Simon Van de Passe
Pocahontas by Simon Van de Passe in 1616
The Abduction of Pocahontas
The Abduction of Pocahontas, c.
Slave shackles
Slave shackles
Dugout Canoe
Dugout Canoe
Title page of book written by Olaudah Equiano.
Title page of book written by Olaudah Equi
Silver Badge for "Machotick" tribe - Front
Silver Badge for "Machotick" tri
Silver Badge for "Machotick" tribe - Back
Silver Badge for "Machotick" tri
Silver Badge for "Patomeck" tribe - Front
Silver Badge for "Patomeck" trib
Silver Badge for "Patomeck" tribe - Back
Silver Badge for "Patomeck" trib