Fall Festivities: Historic Images of Thanksgiving in America

By Nicky M. | Arcadia Staff

Happy Thanksgiving! Today, millions will sit down at tables together across the country, and celebrate the first harvest of the early colonists. From parades and decorating to the Thanksgiving turkey, we’re featuring some of our favorite images of Thanksgivings past. 

A bandleader Mickey balloon flies above the Macy's Thanksgiving Day ParadeWhen it comes to Thanksgiving parades, there’s none bigger than the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, which is known for its creative balloons flying high above the skyline of New York City. In this 2000 photo, a Bandleader Mickey Mouse balloon prepares to lead the crowd.

Reprinted from Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade by Robert M. Grippo and Christopher Hoskins, courtesy of Christopher Hoskins (pg. 154, Arcadia Publishing, 2004).

A farmer poses with his farm-raised turkey.Over the years, many American farmers have raised their own turkeys for Thanksgiving meals. In this photo, a farmer poses with his turkey, squash, and pumpkins ahead of the big day.

Reprinted from Walworth County by Walter S. Dunn Jr. (pg. 25, Arcadia Publishing, 1998).

A military mess hall decorated for Thanksgiving.Even at military facilities, Thanksgiving has been a cause for celebration. For the 11th Cavalry at the Presidio of Monterey, the mess hall was widely decorated for Thanksgiving in 1934.

Reprinted from Presidio of Monterey by Harold E. Raugh, Jr. (pg. 67, Arcadia Publishing, 2004).

A group of children are hosted for a pre-Thanksgiving dinner at the University of Maryland.Besides being a time of thankfulness, Thanksgiving has also been a holiday about giving back to the community. For the University of Maryland, that meant hosting a group of children for a pre-Thanksgiving meal. This image is from a 1994 dinner hosted by the campus’ Lutheran chaplain.

Reprinted from University of Maryland by Jason G. Speck, courtesy of the Diamondback (pg. 60, Arcadia Publishing, 2010).

The Garfield balloon flies in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.While Garfield might well be one of the most well-known comic characters of all time, he wasn’t introduced to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade until 1984. Today, the lasagna-loving feline is still flying high, and recently celebrated his 40th comic anniversary.

Reprinted from Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade by Robert M. Grippo and Christopher Hoskins, courtesy of Macy’s (pg. 150, Arcadia Publishing, 2004).

Orphaned children examined donated turkeys for Thanksgiving,The holidays are meant to be a time of joy for everyone, especially the less fortunate. In this photo, Sister Mildred Marie, Maureen Hallok, and Peter Andraccho are looking at the turkeys donated to the Italian Home for Children in 1955. Opened in 1918 to house children orphaned by the Spanish Influenza, the Italian Home for Children has continued to work with troubled children to the present day.

Reprinted from The Italian Home for Children by Christopher F. Small (pg. 92, Arcadia Publishing, 2005).

Thanksgiving turkeys hang in a small-town butcher shop.While the holidays are busy for everyone, Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the busiest season of the year for butchers. In this 1947 photo, a group of butchers stands in Frank’s People’s Market in Shelton, Connecticut. They have their town’s Thanksgiving turkeys ready to go behind them.

Reprinted from Shelton by Shelton Historical Society, courtesy of Frank C. Pagliaro Jr. (pg. 107, Arcadia Publishing, 2002).

A Thanksgiving Day parade in Little Falls, New York.New York City isn’t the only city to host a Thanksgiving Parade. In Little Falls, a town parade was used to welcome the holiday season. In this photo from the 1950s, members of the Little Falls High School band walk along Albany Street.

Reprinted from Little Falls by Susan R. Perkins and Caryl A. Hopson, courtesy of The Times (pg. 37, Arcadia Publishing, 2010).

The famous Charlie Brown Macy's parade balloon.Like his fellow balloons above, Charlie Brown is a fixture of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. Always ready to kick that football, he’s depicted with his foot pulled back in a preemptive kick. If only he’d ever actually reach it!

Reprinted from Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade by Robert M. Grippo and Christopher Hoskins, courtesy of Christopher Hoskins (pg. 158, Arcadia Publishing, 2004).

Pilgrim reenactors in Plymouth, Massachusetts.In “America’s Hometown” of Plymouth, Massachusetts, the true roots of the Thanksgiving holiday have never been forgotten. Each yeah, residents of Plymouth reenact the pilgrims’ weekly procession to Sunday service. This photo shows the 1921 procession – started as a celebration 300 years after the Pilgrims’ landing, the reenactment has never missed a year thus far.

Reprinted from Plymouth by Donna DeFabio Curtin (pg. 25, Arcadia Publishing, 2011).
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