Roosevelt President Teddy

Thanksgiving—a century ago: Teddy Roosevelt, turkey, football, ragamuffin parades, and ‘Black Friday’

Thanksgiving postcard circa 1900 (Credit: Wikipedia)

Thanksgiving postcard circa 1900 (Credit: Wikipedia)

Life magazine cover, 1904

Life magazine cover, 1904

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.)

Finding a Thanksgiving Turkey (Credit: Library of Congress*)

Finding a Thanksgiving Turkey (Credit: Library of Congress*)

Perry NY Record, 24 Nov 1904 advertisement

Perry NY Record, 24 Nov 1904 advertisement

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.

Thanksgiving Maskers scrambling for pennies (Courtesy of Library of Congress)

Thanksgiving Maskers scrambling for pennies (Courtesy of Library of Congress)

Thanksgiving Maskers (Courtesy of Library of Congress)

Thanksgiving Maskers (Courtesy of Library of Congress)

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!

Lithograph by Forbes Litho. Mfg. Co., Boston [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

President Theodore Roosevelt (Republican from NY) – Lithograph by Forbes Litho. Mfg. Co., Boston [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

*************************************************************

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.

Thanksgiving postcard circa 1910. Published by Wolf-Clapsaddle. Credit: Wikimedia

Thanksgiving postcard circa 1910. Published by Wolf-Clapsaddle. Credit: Wikimedia

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:

New York Press, 20 Nov. 1904 (Courtesy of www.fultonhistory.com)

New York Press, 20 Nov. 1904 (Courtesy of www.fultonhistory.com)

New York Press, 20 Nov. 1904 (Courtesy of http://www.fultonhistory.com)

*************************************************************************************

A little Black Friday shopping anyone? Men’s sweaters – 98 cents; Kashmir rugs – $8.75; women’s coats – $6.95 [CLICK TWICE to ENLARGE]:

Black Friday advertisement, Friday's Buffalo NY Courier, 24 Nov. 1904

Black Friday advertisement, Friday’s Buffalo NY Courier, 24 Nov. 1904

Thanksgiving

New York Sun, Friday, 25 Nov 1904 (Courtesy: http://www.fultonhistory.com)

Taking Home Turkey From Raffle (Credit: Library of Congress*)

Taking Home Turkey From Raffle (Credit: Library of Congress*)

Thanksgiving_NY_Sun_25Nov1904_parades Thanksgiving_NY_Sun_25Nov1904_parades2 Thanksgiving_NY_Sun_25Nov1904_parades3

Thanksgiving_NY_Sun_25Nov1904_parades4

New York Sun, Friday, 25 Nov 1904 (courtesy of http://www.fultonhistory.com)

 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/

Categories: 1900s, Brodhead, Holidays & Festivities, New Jersey, Roosevelt President Teddy, Thanksgiving, Trewin, Woodruff | 6 Comments

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