Thanksgiving Fun

November 20th, 2008 by Sarah Laleman Ward

Thanksgiving is one week away, and recently I got to thinking about some of the history and traditions of American Thanksgiving celebrations.  My musings were prompted by a recent addition to the Librarians’ Internet Index on the history of pumpkin pie.  Librarians’ Internet Index is an excellent free resource for all kinds of web research.  Here is what they have to say about themselves:

Librarians’ Internet Index (LII) is a publicly-funded website and weekly newsletter serving California, the nation, and the world.

Every Thursday morning we send out our free newsletter, New This Week, which features dozens of high-quality websites carefully selected, described, and organized by our team of librarians. Topics include current events and issues, holidays and seasons, helpful tools for information users, human interest, and more.

Did you catch that?  “Hundreds of high-quality websites carefully selected…by our team of librarians.”  That is excellent news if you are interested in saving time while searching the web.  It’s a great alternative to Google.

But I digress – this is a Thanksgiving post.  After reading a bit about the history of pumpkin pie, and learning some fascinating Thanksgiving facts from the U.S. Census Bureau (Minnesota expects to raise 49 million turkeys in 2008!  The average American consumed 13.3 pounds of turkey in 2006!), I decided to hit up the Hunter College Libraries’ databases to see if I could find out more fun tidbits about Thanksgiving.

I started with the New York Times Historical database, which provides full-text access of the New York Times from 1851-2005.  You may recall me mentioning this in a previous blog post.  Or not.  Anyway, it is a great resource, and can be found in our list of databases under the letter ‘N,’ for New York Times.

I conducted a search for “Thanksgiving Day Parade” because I wanted to see  what I could find about this New York tradition.  From November 23, 1870, I found this:

Baseball season's closing day in 1870.

And from November 24, 1932, during the Great Depression, charity dominated in the Big Apple:

I also learned of the tragic fate of the Felix the Cat balloon in the 1931 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.  According to the report from December 3, 1931,

The fate of Felix the Cat, which figured prominently in the Thanksgiving Day Parade staged by R.H. Macy & Co., was learned yesterday.  A high tension wire in West Norwood, N.J., took the animal into its grasp last Friday and burned it.

The story goes on, in a most intriguing way, about the disappearance of a blue hippopotamus balloon,

The search for the blue hippopotamus continued in vain yesterday.  Many cranks offered news of the $2,000 balloon to Macy officials, but no balloon was produced.  Officials were lamenting specifically over a long-distance call from Portland, Me. – charges reversed – reporting the finding of the hippo and demanding the reward.  But all Macy’s got was a telephone bill for $14.

The hippopotamus was also reported sighted Tuesday by a fisherman 100 miles off Rockaway Point.  It was reported to have been doing the “miracle” of walking on the water.

Pretty funny, right?  I wonder if they ever recovered that hippo balloon.  Isn’t it interesting what you can find by searching in old newspapers?  Library resources are amazing.  Up next, images of Thanksgiving!  Stay tuned.

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Posted in Library Collections, Library Resources, Reference, Research

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