Artifact Corner: Thanksgiving

Hi Everyone, and welcome back to another artifact corner. Also, Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at the Kent Delord House museum. We took a look through the Delord family letters to see if they specifically mentioned Thanksgiving. We only have one letter that survives from Betsey Delord Swetland to her Granddaughter Fannie, that she wrote in 1855. The letter reads as follows:

My beloved child,
Thanksgiving Day I had all Mr. Coit’s family but Henry Coit and Lucy Ann’s family to dinner, ten besides your grand father and myself. We had a large roast turkey, a boiled turkey with oyster sauce, fricassee chicken with toast and white gravy, a variety of vegetables, apple and pumpkin pie, Snow Ball apples & grapes; to finish off, a strong cup of coffee. I wish you had been here. They seemed to enjoy it. Nichols and Lynde have met with a loss. Their canal boat was swamped in a high wind. A great number of hogs heads of sugar, molasses &c. rolled off in the lake. The boat filled and wet all their other goods with Mrs. Nichol’s furniture. They have insurance upon the whole, but the loss of sale must be great. Mr. Nichols and Mr. Lynde are going to N.Y. for more goods. A day or two since I was walking to the village and Mr. Lynde overtook me. He inquired if I had heard from you and if you got home well. He said he should have called oftener, but that it was very painful to him and he must try and forget [you]. Our little bay is frozen over and fill’d with boys skating. Do cheer my heart by writing more frequently.
Your loving g. mother. E. Swetland

The meal sounds familiar to us, even 170 years later, with only a couple of exceptions. I think I might take a pass on the boiled turkey in oyster sauce, but maybe that’s just me.
I think every American knows the story of the first Thanksgiving when the pilgrims and the local Native Americans, the Wampanoag, gathered together to share a feast of thanks for a good Autumn harvest, and the peace treaty they had agreed upon. Initially the holiday was celebrated mainly in the North East, but slowly began to spread across the country when people began to move West, and brought the tradition with them. Thanksgiving becoming a national holiday is largely due to one woman, Sarah Jospeha Hale. Sarah was the editor of the magazine Godey’s Lady Book, and she campaigned for Thanksgiving to become a formal holiday that would be recognized by the nation. Sarah Hale is a fascinating woman who was not only an influential editor & activist, but also talented author, and guaranteed you know one of her works. Sarah Hale wrote the children’s nursery rhyme Mary Had a Little Lamb, a classic in American literature. In 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday. All of Sarah’s hard work and petitioning had paid off.

From that time on, Thanksgiving has been celebrated on the last Thursday in November. Traditional fare for the meal includes a turkey, vegetables, and of course, some pumpkin pie. No matter what you serve today, we hope you have a beautiful meal surrounded by family and loved ones. Happy Thanksgiving, and thanks so much for stopping by.

Music: Acoustic Breeze by Benjamin Tissot,