Ronald Klepner, 1950
Thanksgiving, a favorite holiday among the Collection staff, is this week. Thanksgiving dates back to colonial times as a day for religious observance and celebration of the season's harvest. In 1817, it became a legal New York holiday and in 1863, it was proclaimed "a day for national thanksgiving praise and prayer" by President Lincoln. While Thanksgiving was typically observed in November, there were some years in the 19th century where it was held in December.
Brooklyn Daily Eagle, November 28, 1883
Since FDR's presidency, it has been celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November.
The dinners served undoubtedly have changed over the years. The festive supper in the mid-1800s would have consisted of roast turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes and turnips, chicken pot pie, cold roast pig, boiled onions, baked Indian pudding, and oysters. The latter were common, especially in New York and Brooklyn, with an abundance of the mollusk found locally in New York Harbor.
A Thanksgiving menu in 1899 might have looked like this:
Brooklyn Daily Eagle, November 26, 1899
The essential items according to the Eagle included--among many--roast turkey, cranberry sauce, pumpkin and mince pie. While some of us may no longer consider mince pie a Thanksgiving necessity, the recommended recipe for the pie, according to the Eagle is:
- Two pounds beef
- Two pounds layer raisins
- Two pounds citron
- Two nutmegs, grated
- 1/4 ounce clove
- One quart sherry wine
- Two pounds beef suet
- 1/2 pound candied lemon peel
- Four pounds apples
- Two pounds sultana raisins
- Two pounds sugar
- 1/2 ounce cinnamon
- 1/4 ounce mace
- One teaspoon salt
- One quart brandy
- Juice and rinds of two oranges and two lemons
"Cover the meat with boiling water and simmer gently until tender, then stand away until cold. Shred the suet and chop it fine. Pare and chop the apples, stone the raisins, shred citron. When the meat is perfectly cold, shop it fine and mix all the dry ingredients with it, then add the juice and rinds of the lemons and oranges. Mix it well and pack in a stone jar; pour over the liquor and cover closely and stand in a cool place." Place the filling in a pie crust and bake.
The article also suggests recipes for mushroom soup, turkey, pumpkin pie, oyster patties, cranberry jelly, and lettuce salad with dressing. If you are looking to cook a 1940s style roast turkey with oyster stuffing, check out a previous post, supplied again by way of the Eagle.
Fred and Aaron Grant at the Parade, 1953
Besides the food, I also look forward to the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. It began in 1924 with marching bands, clowns and twenty-five live animals from the Central Park Zoo. Since then, the likes of Spider Man, Bugs Bunny, Kermit the Frog and many more have graced the skies as massive floating balloons.
And although many go out to eat...
...some are mandated to stay in.
What I enjoy most about Thanksgiving is taking the time to reflect and give thanks, spending time with friends and family, and passing out due to an overload of tryptophan.
Wayne McGuire, 1951