Thanksgiving Shopping in Old Photos

By Maureen A. Taylor

1919, Library of Congress

This little girl is delighted with her Thanksgiving turkey but I’m not sure how I would have felt about carrying home a turkey complete with feet and head. Shudder! A lot has changed in our Thanksgiving prep.

The 1918 Fannie Farmer cookbook came with instructions on how to prepare poultry. My grandmother’s likely bought birds like this and did everything from cutting off the heads to cleaning out the cavity. As a child I watched my father’s mother singe off any remaining feathers from chicken whether they were present or not. It was a long ingrained habit and likely a cooking skill she developed early.

In addition to the turkey in this picture are a lot of clothing clues for the period. Take a good look at the girl’s legs. She’s wearing long leggings beneath her dress to keep her legs warm. In the background the woman looking at the action wears a plush (perhaps fur jacket) and wool hat decorated with botanicals (berries and branches). Her dress is a little long for 1919, but it fashion sense due to the cold weather.

1919, Library of Congress

This young boy holds a thin but enormous turkey. He’s worn jacket and pants suggest that he could be working at the market rather than buying something for his mother.

Neither child wears gloves! Wonder if either child got ill from handling raw poultry. They are unnamed in these photographs so researching their lives isn’t possible.

As you get ready to celebrate Thanksgiving, ask older relatives about their roles in meal preparation and their childhood traditions. Download the free Storycorps app to your phone and join in the #TheGreatListen2015. Documenting our contemporary family history starts with a story.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Identify your old mystery family photos with these guides by Maureen A. Taylor:

  • Family Photo Detective: Learn How to Find Genealogy Clues in Old Photos and Solve Family Photo Mysteries
  • Fashionable Folks: Bonnets and Hats 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album
  • Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Photo-Organizing Practices
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Searching for Family History Photos: How to Get Them Now