Our Thanksgiving Was Invented By "The Victorian Bible Of the Parlor" and an Ad Campaign
Victorian Morality Shaped Thanksgiving Remembrance
The Victorian Era of England (1837 -1901), a period of restraint, repression, restrictive corsets, and bustles, influenced New England in America.It also gave us our wonderfully huge and abundant Thanksgiving feasts that many Americans and Canadians love!
New Hampshire was the home of magazine editor Sara Hale, who molded the First Thanksgiving to reflect the qualities of purity, piety, and domesticity in women that Victorian morality required.
Many women of her time wore black or black and white and Hale decided that non-existent Pilgrims in 1621 Plymouth wore black and white. The protestants who fled religious persecution wore cheap fabrics of bright colors.
Mary Ring, died in Plymouth in 1633, and her estate included a "mingled-color" waistcoat, two violet waistcoats, three blue aprons, a red petticoat, a violet petticoat, blue stockings, and white stockings. In addition, she owned gray cloth, blue cloth and red cloth, ready to make additional clothing.— http://mayflowerhistory.com/clothing/
The Puritan Magazine
So very Victorian in nature was Sarah Hale's magazine - Godey's Lady's Book - that it was taken over in the 1890s by The Puritan. - but not before Godey's changed Thanksgiving and helped to establish it as a popular national holiday in 1863 during the Lincoln Administration of the United States.
Various commemorations occurred in the 150th anniversary year of that coup of a holiday, leading to increasing numbers of researchers uncovering Thanksgiving facts in the months leading up to November 2013.
Digging deeper reveals interlocking tales of massacres, coups, treaties, politics, and religious fundamentalism as the framework of what could be called the secret history behind our thanksgiving myths.— Everett Tucker at Mystic Politics
Black dresses were saved for formal portraits, funerals, etc.
Forensic Document Experts
Historical documents offer an interesting way to learn more about history than we have been taught in a classroom. Government documents, church records, letters, diaries, magazines, newspapers, awards, and other materials can fill in missing pieces of timelines, events, and geneaological research.
The television show Pawn Stars on the History Channel is captivating, because historical documents often appear, requiring the help of museum curators and forensic document experts to decipher. One can learn a lot from a visit to the Gold and Silver pawn shop that is open 24/7 every day of the year in Las Vegas. Watching the show provides me with new ideas for places to look for information.
Development of the Image of the Pilgrim
Much of what has been uncovered about the 1621 gathering in Plimouth Colony, Massachusetts is interesting and some of it is surprising. Some of the history is useful - like the recipes that were used in 1621 - but other parts of the history are blood curdling.
Sarah Hale (1788 - 1879) incorrectly equated the settlers of Plimouth Plantation with Puritans, a large part of whom were Calvinists that embraced the qualities that Hale felt best: continuous hard work, piety, purity, and for women: domesticity. Hale equated Puritans with Pilgrims at Plimouth in the magazine she edited from 1837 - 1877 - Godey's Lady's Book, complete with drawings, flowery poetry, and the insistence that a woman;'s life is marked by four events and goals: Baptism, Holy Communion, Marriage, and Death.
A good example of the Puritan-Calvinist (and some Presbyterian) thinking was the US Presidential Administration of James K. Polk and First Lady Sarah Childress Polk from 1845 - 1849. This was during Hale's editorship of Godey's. Early on, the Polks insisted the dancing be stopped at the Inaugural Ball. In the White House, the usual open houses were pared down quickly. Food service was stopped first, then beverages of any kind were prohibited. People arrived for a short time and left. Afterward, the Polks worked several hours after each open house to make up for time lost (reference: The Women In the White House by Marianne Means; Signet/Random House Inc.,1963; pages 78 - 93).
Plimouth's second governor William Bradford wrote (bold print is my highlighting):
So they lefte [that] goodly & pleasante citie, which had been ther resting place, nere 12 years; but they knew they were pilgrimes, & looked not much on these things; but lift up their eyes to ye heavens, their dearest cuntrie, and quieted their spirits.
The lowercase pilgrimes was a reference to "strangers and pilgrims" in the Book of Hebrews, Old Testament. The world was capitalized to Pilgrims in 1669 and 1702 by Nathaniel Norton and Cotton Mather, respectively.
Twelve Origins Claimed For Thanksgiving
Author Penny Colman analyzes 12 different claims in just 160 pages about how and where Thanksgiving originated. She includes discussions of traditions long gone - like odd parades of men in costumes. Newer related events include the National Day of Mourning begun in 1970 to honor Native Americans who have lost their lives since 1621 in their experiences with settlers and others.
"The Victorian Bible Of the Parlor" (for Pious, Pure Women)
Godey's Lady's Book of 1864
in this issue, you will see some material that my ancestors saw, including suggestions for the right way to handle a house and home, and holiday festivities.
The proper noun was not much used until after 1798. It acquired a little more widespread usage. In 1827, 39-year-old Sarah Hale wrote her first letter to campaign for Thanksgiving to become a national holiday, eventually writing consistently to dozens of state governors and five US Presidents.
In 1837, she became editor of Godey's and campaigned for her cause within its popular pages. In 1840, the retail sector of America joined her in greater numbers than previously, lobbying for Thanksgiving to be celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November. An ad campaign with Pilgrims (dressed as Puritans), "Indians", women, turkeys, and pies took flight.
Hale was successful in her lobbying for Thanksgiving in 1863 at the age of 75, when President Abraham Lincoln acquiesced, declaring her Thanksgiving in November and holding a second Thanksgiving in memory of the Battle of Gettysburg as well.
Sarah Hale retired from editing at age 89 in 1887 and lived just two more years. At the age of 34, she had ben widowed from her attorney husband and raised five children alone, whil t4aching school and editing Godey's. Her entire life was one of work.
The Monmouth CapClick thumbnail to view full-size
Aside from changing and campaigning for her notion of Thanksgiving, Sarah Hale was also active in the preservation of George Washington's Mount Vernon estate and several other historic sites.
Quote From a Letter
The following quotes appear in correspondence held in the Pilgrim Hall Museum in Plymouth MA.
"By Mayflower passenger Edward Winslow, published in Mourt's Relation : A relation or journal of the beginning and proceedings of the English Plantation settled at Plimothin New England, London, 1622"
"Let your cask for beer and water be iron-bound, for the first tier, if not more...Let your meal be so hard trod in your cask that you shall need an adz or hatchet to work it out with."
Note: The original settlers took kegs of beer, but no seed with which to grow crops.
Sarah Hale attempted to teach Americans "how they should be" in character, attitudes, actions, and manners.
Sarah Josepha Buell Hale, 1835
Ths book is about what the middle class American character should be, according to Sarah Hale. Campaigning for Thanksgiving, she includes a story, "The Thanksgiving of the Heart", page 209.
Hale's Thanksgiving Vision
In 1827, Hale wrote about Thanksgiving in such hyperbole that the record is astonishingly hard to believe.
Her notion of Thanksgiving included men, women, and children sitting around a table on which they had placed a huge turkey with a large amount of stuffing, a flank of sirloin, a large cut of pork, mutton, geese, ducks, a large chicken pie, many vegetables, and large bowls of gravies.
Later, in Godey's, she encouraged the addition of mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pies, and several other dishes. She provided recipes and other materials for use during Thanksgiving.
150th Anniversary of Thanksgiving: 2013
- Sarah Hale Park at the Richards Free Library in New Hampshire
A park and statue in Hale's hometown were dedicated in November 2013 to honor 150 years of the Thanksgiving national holiday, established in 1863.
The Actual Settlers and Advertising Campaigns
We have some consensus about the settlers that arrived in the New World in 1620, but we also have lingering discrepancies at his writing. The sorting of the various data is intriguing and hre are some of the results (1,2,3,4,5):
- The public accepted the name Pilgrims for the Plimouth settlers during the late 1700s and increasingly throughout the 1800s.
- The settlers surviving in the autumn of 1621 numbered only in the range of 47 - 53, according to different sources. They called themselves Saints and were looking to make a new life away from the Church of England, but the first Thanksgiving was not a religious occasion, but secular.
- The settlers wore cheap materials of bright colors, but many of the women possessed small quantities of black fabric that is listed in inventories taken before their deaths and now filed at the Pilgrim Hall Museum in Plymouth MA. The rough life and hard work the settlement lived through would have prevented any white material from remaining white and the rough structures in the photo at the top of this Hub reinforce that idea. Ruffles and large collars or cuffs would have been destroyed by this lifestyle. Correspondence indicates that the men likely wore wool caps.
- For the 1621 feast, there were at probably 31 English men and teen boys present. Robert Krulwich (2) feels that the affiliated 4 women, 5 teen girls, and 13 children were not invited. The females prepared the food.
- The Wampanoag, Massasoit, was invited and he brought 98 additional surprise guests, all male; it was the tribal tradition to share such an invitation with the males of the village.
- The Native Americans supplied five deer for a meal and gathering that spanned three days. The meal included waterfowl such as ducks and geese, corn, nuts, berries, and puddings of squash and pumpkin. England was a nation that made pies of many sorts, but the English in Plimouth did not have the flour for crusts, so the puddings sufficed. Mr. Krulwich (2) learned from Linda Coombs, an Aquinnah Wampanoag who directs a cultural center at today's Plimouth Plantation, that the meal likely included sobaheg, which is a stew of corn, beans, squash (the Three Sisters); and a variety of game meats. There was also an abundance of clams, lobsters, eels, onions, turnips, and greens like spinach and others.
- Some researchers feel that turkey was not prepared in 1621. However, Governor Bradford and a settler, Edward Winslow, indicate that turkeys had been hunted and placed in the community storehouse. This information is contained in correspondence held at Plymouth's Pligrim Hall Museum (pilgrimhallmuseum.org). No mention of preparing them exists. The much fatter turkeys displayed in advertising schemes today are the result of farm raising, sometimes with the administration of hormones and extremely cramped living conditions for the birds.
- The English men had several casks of beer. A consensus is growing that the English became intoxicated and began shooting their rifles in a display of fire power.
- Under the ministrations of Sarah Hale and American retailers, Thanksgiving was imbued with strict religious overtones that suggested the holiday as solemn and prayerful, instituted by women who, life herself, wore the purity and piety of black and white. Most US States had their own Thanksgivings by 1840 and gladly picked up elements of celebration with food (recipes provided by Sarah Hale) and drink as the campaign for a national holiday proceeded through the 1800s. This movement added shopping as one of the relevant activities related to Thanksgiving and when the US Congress declared the legal national holiday in 1941, Black Friday was not far behind.
America and Canada largely accept Sarah Hale's version of Thanksgiving, although increasing numbers of citizens want to know about the true events. A National Day of Mourning for Native Americans and their plight in 1621 and thereafter was instituted in 1970, although it is not widely known.
- Cooking the History Books: The Thanksgiving Massacre. Republic of Lakotah: http://www.republicoflakotah.com/2009/cooking-the-history-books-the-thanksgiving-massacre/ Retrieved October 29, 2013.
- First Thanksgiving Dinner: No Turkeys. No Ladies. No Pies by Robert Krulwich. National Public Radio: http://www.npr.org/blogs/krulwich/2010/11/22/131516586/who-brought-the-turkey-the-truth-about-the-first-thanksgiving Retrieved October 29, 2013.
- Godey's Lady's Book and Sarah Josepha Hale: Making Female Education Fashionable, by Amy Condra Peters. http://www.loyno.edu/~history/journal/1992-3/peters.htm Retrieved October 30, 2013.
- Puritan/Godey's Lady Book. University of Pennsylvania Library; scans of most issues. http://onlinebooks.library.upenn.edu/webbin/serial?id=godeylady Retrieved October 30, 2013.
- Pilgrim Propaganda: The Secret History of Thanksgiving by Everett Tucker. Mystic Politics: http://mysticpolitics.com/pilgrim-propaganda-the-secret-history-of-thanksgiving Retrieved October 30, 2013.
Interesting Film Treatment
During November 2013, the animated Free Birds 3D was released and proved quite entertaining. Governor Bradford of Plimouth Plantation was portayed as a fat, greedy slob who kept all of the community's supplies and food inside his own house.
Myles Standish looked like a thin Wild West bounty hunter dressed all in black and riding a black horse. He face was scarred and hollow-cheeked. The children in the audiences likely are unaware of his attacks upon Native Americans after the 1621 feast, but his appearance riminds anyone who knows the history.
The wild turkeys of Plimouth are Standish's prey and wear war paint and Native American feathers, while some speak with a Native American "accent". For adult viewers, the turkeys stand in for the Native Americans of the 1600s.
Actual Recipes From 1621
- "First Thanksgiving" - Original Recipes From 1621, But There Were No Pie Or Pilgrims
The Ohio State University met with Native American students and other people to discuss the real events on the first English-American "Thanksgiving" and to make new plans for the future. You see, there was no pie and too many beheadings...
Plimouth Plantation Living History Museum
© 2013 Patty Inglish