I so enjoy seeing how people from the past celebrated holidays. It is something we have enjoyed covering on the blog over the years (I will link to a bunch of Thanksgiving history posts below). Vintage Thanksgiving magazine covers are a great way to see how society has changed. For instance, these days we don’t see many images of people chasing turkeys around to butcher for Thanksgiving dinner!
We also don’t see many illustrated images on the front of magazine covers. While advances in photography have brought us a lot of beautiful art, the illustrated images on these covers are so lovely and show a love of the holiday that I enjoy. I looked for Thanksgiving magazine covers from about 1950 on, but they certainly were not as beautiful as the ones I am including here.
I hope this collection gets you in a most-traditional mood for the upcoming holiday.
But first, a bit of history…
Thanksgiving’s official start began with an indomitable woman in the mid/late 19th century. But as many of us were taught in grade school, there were celebrations of thanksgiving well before that. However, because what we were taught in elementary school is now considered to be quite dubious, with the colonies and the 18th century.
In the early 18th century the colonies would celebrate successful harvests and general days of thankfulness. However, the day that each colony celebrated was different and spread out over the entire year. Some observances included fasting as well as a feast.
Thanksgiving foods have always been made with ingredients indigenous to North America. Want to learn the history of each of your favorites? Read our blog series:
The tides would start to change during the Revolutionary War. Following the US victory over the British at Saratoga the Continental Congress declared that there would be a day of celebration across New England on the same day. This time around it was on December 18th.
After this observance, the colonies continued to have a day of counting their blessings. Again, however, it would be piecemeal.
All that would change another hundred years later.
Enter Sarah Hale.
Sarah Hale is a favorite here at Recollections. Besides playing an essential in the establishment of the official Thanksgiving she was also the editor of the very famous Godey’s Lady’s book.
Read all about it here: Godey’s Lady’s Book: what you didn’t know
Born in 1788 Ms. Hale grew up in an area that celebrated Thanksgiving each year. She loved the tradition and wrote about it in one of her early books, Northwood: A Tale of New England.
While working as editor for Godey’s she decided to use her influence to spread popularity for the observance. She often wrote editorials on the topic, and as tensions began to rise between the North and the South as the 1850s approached, she ramped up her efforts, believing that an official day of thankfulness would be a united event.
Hale took her efforts to the very forces that had the power to declare a national holiday. She began to lobby Congress as well as other state and federal officials. For reasons I am unsure of, she originally wanted Thanksgiving to be the last Thursday of November. The efforts would soon begin to bear fruit. By 1850, 30 states were taking part in the holiday.
But Sarah Hale wanted Thanksgiving to be recognized on the national level. When the Civil War broke out her efforts only increased. And the results would be crucially important for the nation. After the battle of Gettysburg in 1863 President Lincoln declared a day of thanks, following another letter from Hale urging him to create a yearly occasion. This time it stuck. Lincoln sent a proclamation declaring the last Thursday in November Thanksgiving Day.
I bet that was quite the dinner in the Hale home!
To the press!
The holiday took off. These early 20th-century magazines celebrated each year, displaying how important Thanksgiving Day had quickly become.
Enjoy, and have a great Thanksgiving week!