“The best Thanksgiving ever:” A 1920s Celebration

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]Is 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…

Marcus also wrote about his adventures trick-or-treating and his battles with the algebra teacher.   Just as amusing is The Flapper’s Magazette by Miss Vivie Wivie…

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

Thanksgiving Kitchen Capers For Foodies!

The chef

The chef. Aunt Jo and Uncle George. Kritters of the Kitchen Kingdom. (Boston: Little, Brown, and Co., 1922). Cotsen

Described in the text as “Mister Murphy, the cook from France,”  this character is clearly a forerunner of  Mr. Potato Head.  The exhaustive site dedicated to the history and collecting of this beloved toy does not mention the inventor’s George Lerner’s forebearers, Aunt Jo and Uncle George…

"No dessert for you, young lady, until you eat those Brussel sprouts!"

“No dessert for you, young lady, until you eat those Brussel sprouts!”

Next we have what appears to be what today’s foodies call a heritage breed of bird without the modern factory-farm turkey’s huge breast (it’s actually a wild turkey).  According to the plate’s explanatory text, the turkey was brought from America to Europe by Jesuit missionaries in 1524 and was named after the country of Turkey from whence so many luxuries were imported:

The carnivore's pièce de resistance

The carnivore’s pièce de resistance. Illustrated Book of Natural History. Part I. Printed in oil colors by Henry B. Ashmead. (Philadelphia: American Sunday School Union, 1858).

This recipe (or directions for constructing a simple food sculpture) shows that Joost Elfers, Saxton Freyman, and Johannes van Dam were real Johnny-come-latelies when it comes to the art of playing with food. Check out this vegetarian alternative to the traditional turkey:

The vegetarian alternative

Elizabeth and Louise Bache.  When Mother Lets Us Make Candy.  New York: Moffat, Yard and Company, 1915.

What about the kitchen where the feast is prepared?   Here’s Cinderella toiling in a state-of-the-art facility from the turn of the nineteenth century…

Other people use Chinet at Thanksgiving when there is a crowd...

Cinderella or The Little Glass Slipper (London: J. Harris, 180 ).

Or here is Dame Trot peeking in while her clever cat is hard at work.

DameTrot1.cropIt’s time to uncork the wine and carve the bird!


DameTrot2.cropWith any luck, there will still be some stuffing left for later…

Where did all the left-overs go????!!!!

Grace Kasson  Tin Tan Tales. Illustrated by E. Tsandre.  (London: Ernest Nister/ New York: E. P. Dutton, [not after 1912, c1897]).

Our apologies to the authors and illustrators of these children’s books from whence these images have been wrested and placed in not entirely appropriate contexts!

 Have a happy holiday weekend from Team Cotsen!

Aaron Pickett, Andrea Immel, Dana Sheridan, and Jeff Barton


Abbie N. Smith, King Gobbler, Boston : Educational Publishing Company, c1906