Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Happy Thanksgiving 2021

We will be sharing our New Hampshire Thanksgiving virtually this year with friends and family in Florida, Virginia and the Netherlands. This is an historically interesting coincidence as all these seemingly disparate places also happen to play important roles in the Thanksgiving story. 

Many people imagine a scene like that above when they think of the first Thanksgiving said to be held in 1621 in Massachusetts. For more on this painting see the link here

However, an earlier Thanksgiving in Florida in 1565 may have looked more like that below with Spanish Conquistadors, top-knotted Timucuans, longleaf pine and sabal palm trees (they may have even eaten part of the palm tree).  

For more on this argument see these links here and here. Instead of turkey, this thanksgiving would have more likely included gopher tortoise, mullet and gator.  

See our previous blog on a beast feast in Maine here

These images are from a book published in 1591.  

Another possible entree was Cocido-Madrileno, a stew made from salted pork and garbanzo beans laced with garlic seasoning.  

Even in Florida however, we were taught the Pilgrim version of the holiday in elementary school. 

We had pilgrim pageants with construction paper costumes and played "colonial" games. Even if made from toilet paper rolls, these images are iconic and easily recognizable, but inaccurate and incomplete.  

In Florida we used the extra large cones of the Longleaf Pine to make decorative turkeys...

... complete with crayon outlined hand silhouettes for their tail feathers. 

The famous sculpture below shows a Pilgrim with a "buckle hat." 

In fact, the buckle hat was fictional. Pilgrims never wore such an item, nor has any such hat ever existed as a serious piece of apparel. The sculpture was created by Augustus St. Gaudens in 1904. St. Gaudens summered in Cornish New Hampshire. FMI see this link here

The pilgrim buckle hat is featured on signs for the Massachusetts turnpike. 

This earlier controversial sign has been retired. 

Now for the Dutch connection (everyone say hello to Julia and Joost). The Pilgrim Mayflower trail made an important stop in the Netherlands. FMI see these links here and here

Misguided Virginians think the first Thanksgiving was held at Berkeley Plantation. They even built a shrine marking the site. FMI see these links here

Finally for the important New Hampshire connection during the 19th century. 

Pictured here are reenactors Sharon and Steve Wood playing Sarah Josepha Hale and Abraham Lincoln. See this link here for more details about their NH Humanities program. 

While I think we should all learn more about history from different perspectives, I echo Eric Meltzer's column in today's Conway Daily Sun (see link to his article here) in which he points out the Mass pike signs illustrated above. 

This is a holiday in which we can enjoy a couple days off work and focus on food, parade, friends and family. It has a much less commercial nature to it than many other holidays. 

By the way "wheels," my first car was a Plymouth Fury I got from my Grandfather.  

So, we will continue to do what we did in Florida, Delaware, Indiana and now New Hampshire. Our family tradition starts with breakfast and the Macy's Parade. Then after dinner, we will watch The Miracle 34th Street

FMI on the film see link here

Our family Christmas holiday does not officially begin until we see Santa at the end of the parade in the film. 

On Black Friday (or Plaid Friday as some are now calling it), I will be presenting a program about the history of Thanksgiving for a local community group. I would be happy to do a free outreach program for other local schools and community groups as part of our seasonal "art of the harvest" programs. If you are interested in learning more contact us at the Conway Public Library's Henney History Room. 

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

This Revolutionary Event Was A Real Blast!

Posted in honor of Veterans Day and to prepare for future events.  

We recently attended a commemorative event at a Conway cemetery honoring a local veteran of the American Revolution that included this musket salute by a color guard in period costume.  

After five years of research, with help from The Sons of the American Revolution, The Daughters of the American Revolution and other local historians, the family was able to earn several memorial plaques for this veteran's grave.

The family wrote, "The Henny History Room held many documents that allowed us information to assist us, in our research of this lost patriot and for that we will always be grateful. We appreciate all the times you patiently dug out volumes, pulled files and maps and assisted us with the tasks at hand..."

We have also had a couple of other requests for information about the history and service of other local soldiers from the colonial and revolutionary war eras. 

It was a stirring ceremony and we hope to see many more patriotic events like this as we near the 250th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence in 2026 (only five years away). See our previous blog on that subject here

We have been reviewing our local online newspaper archive for how the Bicentennial of the Declaration of Independence was celebrated in Conway in 1976 (fifty years ago) and have found many examples to be followed. You can read some of the exciting things they did then at this link here

We are planning to offer free outreach programs on colonial and revolutionary period history to local schools and community groups that will include hands-on activities such as writing with a quill pen. 

We are also updating our online data base for cemetery records and as you may know the Conway Historical Society has published a guide with GPS coordinates to all the known cemeteries in town. Some of them are very hard to find. Let me know if you want to purchase your own copy or you can borrow a copy from the library. Of course we also have the library subscription of  the Ancestry software and would be happy to help guide you in your family history research. 

We also offer workshops on how to properly preserve family papers and photos. For more information contact us at the Conway Public Library's Henney History Room.