What Did Marcus French Give Thanks for in 1926?

football turkey

The connection between football and Thanksgiving seems to go way back…

On November 28,1926, Marcus sent his big sister Eleanor a report on Thanksgiving back home.   He thought it was “The best Thanksgiving I ever had” even though “I didn’t get enough turkey.”  It wasn’t having the dressing, sides, or pies in the cement house that made the holiday so special that year.  The real reason?


(The “2” is short for “twice.”)


After the holiday feast the family went to the Strand Theater to see “Rin Tin Tin: The Hero of the Big Snows,” which Marcus said was “dandy.” He’d seen at least one other film starring the German shepherd war hero and star of the silver screen.

hero of the big snowsAfter this stirring yarn, in which Rinty saves a child from a vicious black wolf, it was time for something completely different, the “funny picture.”  Marcus doesn’t give the title but does mention that it starred Harold Lloyd.  According to Marcus, “the goofiest picture I ever saw.”  mfrenchpage[2]Maybe the “funny picture” Marcus saw was the full-length silent, “For Heaven’s Sake,”  the only movie Lloyd released that year.  This chase sequence is pretty goofy, by all objective standards.  harold lloyd heavensThe family went to supper before heading off to the Rialto (the theater’s façade still exists in New Amsterdam) to take in a vaudeville show and another unidentified “goofy picture.”   Marcus had more important things to share with Eleanor than details about his third picture show of the day, like his preliminary Christmas list.mfrenchpage[3]He promised to send his big sister an updated and expanded list soon instead of asking what SHE might like from Santa.  I was able to find pictures of some of the things Marcus coveted.  Here’s an advertisement for the major manufacturer of bicycle cyclometers:

vreeder odometer

The manufacturer’s jingle for this product line was “It’s nice to know how far you go.”

And this might be pretty close to the basketball and the cover on the list:vintage-basketball-carrierAfter some perfunctory chat about the weather, Marcus closed with the Pathe News, this time a seasonal story in two frames, written and illustrated by himself: mfrenchpage[4]So does this graphic depiction of a turkey’s slaughter and consumption a sign that Marcus was a budding sociopath?  Probably not.  These contemporary Thanksgiving greeting cards send the message that Americans were a whole lot more matter of fact and a whole lot less squeamish than we are when it comes to meat-eating…boy ax turkeyturkey boy knifeSo enjoy your Thanksgiving weekend, whether you are finishing off leftovers from the bird or that tasty vegan mushroom gravy…

Holiday greetings from Team Cotsen

Andrea, Dana, Ellen, Ian, Jeff, Marissa, Minjie, Miranda, and Miriam

archimboldo thanksgiving

Marcus French Celebrates Halloween in 1926

toothy pumpkin

Eighteen years ago on Halloween, the Cotsen Children’s Library opened its doors to the public.  This year, we’ll commemorate both occasions with a letter written by Marcus French, one of the most amusing and vivid of the child authors in the collection.

Some years back Bruce C. Willsie ’86, one of RBSC’s most generous donors, presented to Cotsen this delightful archive of thirty illustrated letters Marcus wrote to his big sister Eleanor when she was away at school between 1925 and 1927.  Marcus formatted all the news that was fit to relate–and fair amount that wasn’t–as if it were appearing in a Pathe newsreel.  Over the next few months I’ll be running a series of Marcus’s letters.

In 1926, ten-year-old Marcus wrote Eleanor a long letter on Halloween–four pages of news accompanied by four pages of pictures within borders of seasonal imagery he drew himself.  The first picture shows his cat Jock being run over by a motorcycle he tried to chase (maybe a classic Harley-Davidson?).  Don’t believe the bit about Jock losing a leg–he was just bruised.

page 1The inside double-page spread is a rogue’s gallery of Marcus and his friends in their Halloween costumes: Marcus as a clown (how appropriate…) Vedder as a pirate “with bandages and sword,”  William as a ghost, and Mike in a stovepipe hat and mask masquerading as a desparado Abraham Lincoln??  The boys had to wait until the rain stopped to go trick-or-treating, or as Marcus put it “make some calls,” and “have some fun,” that is, make mischief. They tore apart a big wooden frame and threw the pieces on porches, broke milk bottles, and rang doorbells and ran away.  “We didn’t get any pies,” Marcus reports sadly, raising the interesting question of, were homemade baked goods handed out to children making calls on Halloween night in lieu of Reese’s Pieces and other packaged candies?

page 2The significance of the news on the facing page is unclear, but it doesn’t look like a serious account of what was going on in the wider world.  Probably just a local newscast.  What do you suppose Marcus is doing in the upper right hand corner?  Turn the page to find out.

page 3

Do the dog and cat look identical or are my eyes going?

On the back page is an illustration of William heaving a plank on someone’s porch, yelling at his accomplices, “Hey cheesit kids,” with Marcus joining in, “Cheesit run kids.”   Spelling and punctuation were not Marcus’s strong points, but a lexicographer might be interested to know that a kid in Montgomery County, New York, during the 1920s used that expression to signal that it was time to beat it.

page 4

The P.S. reads “There was a man with overalls on in church this morning.”

Now Don’t Try This at Home!

Have a safe and sane Halloween from Team Cotsen!

Andrea, Dana, Ian, Jeff, Minjie and Miriam