Secrets From A Shipwreck

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In the 1780s, citizens in the newly-won United States relied heavily on global trade. They received finished goods from Great Britain and the rest of Europe, and resources from the Caribbean such as sugar and tobacco (imported). The US shipped out (exported) a lot of goods to Great Britain and other European countries as well, such as lumber, furs and other natural resources. Many of these goods were shipped into and out of Philadelphia, the most important port in the US at the time, meaning that thousands of ships carrying goods from across the Atlantic passed right along the Delaware coast every single day. These goods were not just for large factories either, many were commonly used within the homes of normal citizens, showing us that every person in the US was connected to the importance of global trade!

Americans relied heavily on the materials that came from Europe and the Caribbean in 1783. Where do you think most of the objects you rely on today come from?

Materials Needed:

  • Pen or pencil

  • Paper


STEP 1: Watch the video below!

Visit our keyboard shortcuts docs for details
3 minutes, 38 seconds

Discover what happens to the Dutch ship carrying goods to America in 1783.



Scavenger Hunt:

It's time to practice archeology in your very own home! We receive goods from all across the world today and you can find many around your personal living spaces.


STEP 1: Draw a table like the one below on a piece of paper.


Item Description

Why does it come from there?




STEP 2: Search around your home with an adult and try to find objects from the nations listed.
STEP 3: Describe the items and why you think the objects come from those places.
STEP 4: Answer the following questions underneath your chart:

  • Was it easy to find goods from each of these three countries? Was one country more common than another?

  • Do you think Americans in 1783 would have had many goods from each of these nations in their homes? Why or why not?

  • As you can see, global trading patterns change over time. What factors do you think can cause these changes? Think about factors such as technology, population growth, historical events and economic changes.

Some Helpful Observation Strategies:

Some common areas to spot where your items are from may be found on the tags of clothes, shoes, hats, and blankets, stickers on fruits and vegetables, and the lists of information on the back of food packages and other products.


BONUS Activity!

Can you identify Mexico, England and China correctly?
A world map with country outlines, with gold stars over China, Mexico, and Britain

Jason Rhode. Blank World Map. Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) 


The artifacts found along the beach in Lewes help us better understand the lives of people during the 1780s and the importance that international trade played in early US history. If the items you just collected were found by someone 200 years from now, what might archeologists conclude about your family/society in 2021?


Thank you to our partners!

This program would not have been possible without the time and dedication from the staff at the Zwaanendael Museum. Big thanks to everyone who helped create this experience.

If you would like to access additional educational program materials from the Zwaanendael Museum, please e-mail them

Last updated: May 11, 2021

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New Castle, DE 19720


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