Easter 1915. Ever wonder what things may have ‘looked like’ back then? Thanks to the Library of Congress and the Fulton History website, I’ve been able to gather a few items to share with you today that give a glimpse into that moment in the past.
I love old photos—I enjoy seeing the outfits and faces, and, in this case, checking out all the ladies bonnets floating about the images of Easter parades and throngs of churchgoers. This was the big opportunity for those of means to show off their new spring wardrobes and a chance for bystanders to witness quite a spectacle. Irving Berlin’s 1948 musical Easter Parade, starring Fred Astaire and Judy Garland and set in the Manhattan of 1912-1913, brings to life the fabulous parades of that era.
And what would Easter be without bunnies? Check out the article about the ‘bunny trade’ back then—it was quite a brisk business. American bunnies. Bunnies from Australia. Bunnies from Belgium. The Australian bunnies ruled supreme. And apparently some folks took their bunny purchases very seriously, accommodating their tiny, new little friends in elaborate apartment-like ‘digs’! Thankfully I think (and I hope) a bit more common sense prevails nowadays when it comes to acquiring—or should I say ‘not acquiring’ bunnies at Easter time. Back then, it appears to have been de rigueur.
And, as always, the advertisements are very revealing. Ladies, don’t forget to purchase the ‘hair switches’ you’ll need to enhance the look of your Easter bonnet! And, gents, it may be time to invest in a new $15 balmacaan*!
Anyway, I hope you find something of interest here~ Best wishes to you all for a very Happy Easter!
*Per Merriam-Webster’s: “a loose single-breasted overcoat usually having raglan sleeves and a short turnover collar”
Easter Bunnies in Great Demand (The Troy Times, 1 April 1915)
Rabbits for Easter souvenirs are unusually large and varied this season. The prices are comparatively high. A little bunny, which would be dear at a quarter of a dollar at any other time, is quickly snapped up for a dollar, sometimes more, just before Easter. As is customary at this time of year, the supply is far behind the demand.
The little fellows are offered for sale in expensive nests in great variety. These vary from simply little baskets just large enough for a single occupant to miniature kennels or houses with every modern convenience. These little homes often contain several apartments, carpeted with cotton or even raw silk. It often costs many dollars, to provide an Easter rabbit with one of these luxurious homes.
The pure white rabbits, as is customary, bring the best prices. They are generally preferred above any other color. The supply of white rabbits is very limited. They are imported especially for the Easter trade from Australia. This particular market is very difficult to supply, since it is necessary for the little bunnies to be not more than a few days old on Easter Sunday They quickly outgrow the size most in demand by the Easter trade.
The young of the native-born American rabbits are a grayish white in color. The color makes all the difference in the world when it comes to selling them at Easter.
The growth of late of the Belgian hare industry has made a large supply of their young available at Easter, but the color is not satisfactory. They are reddish brown in color and slightly larger than the older breeds. It is hoped by the trade that the young of the Belgian hare will eventually come into favor, thus solving the difficult problem of the Easter rabbit supply.
Illustrated is an Easter bunny that came to live with two little boys. These little boys have a game which they invariably play, on Easter morning. “Hunting the eggs” it is called. Their mamma buys candy eggs in beautiful colors, and on the night before Easter when the kiddies are slumbering she makes little nests of hay, using as a foundation old hats; then she fills these nests with the colored candy Easter eggs and secretes them in the most unheard of places. With shouts of glee these youngsters pass the early morning hours of Easter day searching for these nests.
Thanksgiving—a century ago: Teddy Roosevelt, turkey, football, ragamuffin parades, and ‘Black Friday’
Thanksgiving is just a week away, and I enjoy thinking about how our ancestors may have gone about their own Thanksgiving Day preparations and celebrations.
I came across some ads and articles from 1904. What would have been going on back then? Grandma (not yet married) and her five sisters were likely cooking up a storm in the Woodruff family home in Hillside, NJ. The Andrew Jackson Brodhead family was marking its first Thanksgiving without family matriarch Ophelia. Did they spend the day at son James Easton Brodhead’s gloriously big home in Flemington, NJ? Did my great-grandfather Andrew Douglas Brodhead (James’ brother) and family of Perth Amboy, NJ, join them? And, on my mom’s side, the Trewin family was celebrating in Elizabeth, NJ. Did they get together with other family in nearby Bayonne or Jersey City, or have a quiet day at home? Did ‘Thanksgiving maskers’ come by to beg for pennies? (A tradition described very well in this Huffington Post article “A Forgotten Thanksgiving Custom: Masks, Mischief and Cross-dressing” – pub. 11/20/2012.)
In the early 20th century, the household radio had yet to exist, not to mention all the other devices available to us today—devices that, dare I say it, often distract us from interacting with the very family members in our midst? I imagine that back then, our ancestors enjoyed listening to the phonograph, dancing, playing games, and exchanging news and views on all sorts of topics. There’d certainly have been no TV football games to watch or fall in sleep in front of! But apparently high school Thanksgiving football games had become popular by then; so perhaps, our ancestors enjoyed watching a game or two in the crisp November air…or ventured into the Big Apple to watch a ‘ragamuffin parade‘—popular back then (see the below article “Turkey Feasts for Everyone”) and still a feature of many autumn festivals today.
It would seem safe to say that many of my ancestors would likely have read the text of the inspiring and patriotic Thanksgiving Day Proclamation (below) by President Theodore Roosevelt (Rep-NY) who had won reelection by a landslide that year. The ladies in the respective families may have poured over Jule De Ryther’s cooking tips. De Ryther, celebrated soprano turned food maven, provided instructions in the newspaper for the ‘little woman’ on how to make a ‘Yankee Thanksgiving Dinner’ (see below). And, yes, it seems likely that our ancestors had some shopping on their mind. I found one full-page ‘Black Friday’ ad (shown below) with a headline screaming “Give Thanks Today For These Bargains Tomorrow.” It would seem that not much has changed after all these years, except for the items on sale and, of course, the prices!
Anyway, back to 2014. Best wishes to all of you for a wonderful Thanksgiving. I’m still debating a couple of turkey recipes (Tyler Florence’s ‘Buried Turkey with Gravy‘ or Sandra Lee’s ‘Roasted Butter Herb Turkey‘). Both are excellent recipes. Tried Sandra’s last year and Tyler’s the year before. His is very handy if you want to get the bird cooked fast. It’s quick and easy and the meat comes out wonderfully moist and flavorful. Stuffing must be cooked separately however, and (for me) it’s a bit of a struggle to split the bird in half. Sandra goes the traditional stuffed-bird route, and rubs a garlic-herb-butter mix under the skin. The result is pretty delicious.
Feel free to share any favorite recipes in the comment box below. And, enjoy your Thanksgiving 2014!
P.S. What an ideal time to talk about family history and family traditions!
PROCLAMATION By PRESIDENT THEODORE ROOSEVELT:
It has pleased Almighty God to bring the American people in safety and honor through another year, and, in accordance with the long unbroken custom handed down to us by our forefathers, the time has come when a special day shall be set apart in which to thank Him who holds all nations in the hollow of His hand, for the mercies thus vouchsafed to us. During the century and a quarter of our national life we as a people have been blessed beyond all others, and for this we owe humble and heartfelt thanks to the Author of all blessings.
The year that has closed has been one of peace within our borders as well as between us and all other nations. The harvests have been abundant, and those who work, whether with hand or brain, are prospering greatly. Reward has waited upon honest effort. We have been enabled to do our duty to ourselves and to others. Never has there been a time when religious and charitable effort has been more evident. Much has been given to us and much will be expected from us. We speak of what has been done by this Nation in no spirit of boastfulness or vainglory, but with full and reverent realization that our strength is as nothing unless we are helped from above. Hitherto we have been given the heart and the strength to do the tasks allotted to us as they severally arose. We are thankful for all that has been done for us in the past, and we pray that in the future we may be strengthened in the unending struggle to do our duty fearlessly and honestly, with charity and good will, with respect for ourselves and love towards our fellow men.
In this great Republic the effort to combine national strength with personal freedom is being tried on a scale more gigantic than ever before in the world’s history. Our success will mean much, not only for ourselves, but for the future of all mankind, and every man or woman in our land should feel the grave responsibility resting upon him or her, for in the last analysis this success must depend upon the high average of our individual citizenship, upon the way in which each of us does his duty by himself and his neighbor.
Now, therefore, I, Theodore Roosevelt, President of the United States, do hereby appoint and set apart Thursday, the twenty-fourth of this November, to be observed as a day of festival and thanksgiving by all the people of the United States, at home or abroad, and do recommend that on that day they cease from their ordinary occupations and gather in their several places of worship or in their homes, devoutly to give thanks to Almighty God for the benefits He has conferred, upon us as individuals and as a Nation, and to beseech Him that in the future His divine favor may be continued to us.
In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the City of Washington, this first day of November, in the year of Our Lord one thousand nine hundred and four, and of the independence of the United States, the one hundred and twenty-ninth.
Food writer Jule De Ryther turns up the heat in the 1904 Thanksgiving kitchen:
A little Black Friday shopping anyone? Men’s sweaters – 98 cents; Kashmir rugs – $8.75; women’s coats – $6.95 [CLICK TWICE to ENLARGE]:
PHOTOGRAPHIC IMAGES: New York City, Thanksgiving holiday scenes, 1911. Courtesy of Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA; VISIT: http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2005675293/