With Thanksgiving just around the corner, stress may be starting to creep in when it comes to planning and executing a great dinner. You could turn to hotlines or friends for help, but a holiday with such rich history (and a tendency to be fraught with traditions and expectations) requires special assistance. May I recommend turning to the shelves of Western History and Genealogy for some inspiration and historic guidance?
Inevitably, food preparation is often the heart of this holiday’s stress. So why not look for some recipes outside the usual turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie?
In 1962 the Kistler Stationary Company, a leading printer and retailer in Denver, published their Happy Thanksgiving and Good Feasting book of historic recipes. The Kistler booklet offers select recipes from the Colonial period, as “the gracious Thanksgiving tradition of family feasting reached its peak during the times of our Colonial ancestors.” Whether or not you agree on that point, the recipes for johnny cake and Vermont ginger cookies are likely to get your guests salivating.
Another treacherous element of the holiday is dinner table conversation, particularly in this period of political and social division. For the more satisfied among us, we can look to Governor John L. Routt’s Thanksgiving Proclamation from 1892, in which he calls to our blessings of “peace, unusual prosperity and contentment….and let it be the purpose on the part of all to make brighter the homes of those who may need our assistance and sympathy.”
For those feeling a little less secure, we might recommend Reverend W. W. King’s 1863 Thanksgiving Lecture in Central City, Colorado Territory. In the midst of the Civil War, King spoke from a very different national and emotional context but his words might strike closer to home for guests feeling a certain sense of dread these days:
“I love the flag of my country, not as an emblem of injustice and oppression, but as the symbol of justice and freedom, bearing within its starry folds the history of noble aims and heroic achievements. Let us hope and pray that this national sacrifice may prove a national regeneration; that from our country’s flag every stain may be washed away, and that at last it may float beneath its kindred sky, all over the broad earth, the symbol of universal freedom.”
Both speeches promise some hope for the future, and thankfulness for the past, regardless of current feelings.
Thanksgiving has evolved in many ways throughout the centuries, and now it’s hard to imagine the holiday without also seeing it as the start of the holiday buying season. Thus, our final stop on this tour is with the circa 1950 Green Brothers catalog “for Thanksgiving and Christmas gifts your friends will never forget!” From the “truly unusual gift!” (Rocky Mountain rainbow trout) to “your most appreciated gift” (a bunch of celery, which seems even more unusual) this catalog has all of your holiday food gift ideas covered. For other gift ideas, WHG has nearly 500 more catalogs for your perusal.
Regardless of how you choose to celebrate this holiday, Western History and Genealogy wishes everyone a very happy, healthy and inspired Thanksgiving!
I enjoyed the photo of the turn of the century Thanksgiving. Like the one you had last year, it helps me imagine what life was like inside the old houses in my Capitol Hill neighborhood. I also noticed that, like the picture last year, the turkey was quite small compared to those of today. I guess modern genetics and other developments have allowed us to grow Godzilla-size turkeys and chickens.
Glad you liked it, Jude. Thanks for commenting!