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Thanksgiving Quiz: Turkey Day 1923

Thanksgiving is marked by tradition. And yet the way we celebrate has changed over the past century. What’s different today from 100 years ago, Thanksgiving 1923? Find out with this short, fun quiz.

1. This year, Thanksgiving is on November 23. What was the date in 1923?

A: November 14

B: November 22

C: November 23

D: November 29

Answer: D. The fourth Thursday in November wasn’t the established date for the federal holiday until 1941. Before that, each president chose the date and issued a Thanksgiving proclamation. President Calvin Coolidge picked the fifth Thursday in November 1923.

2. Americans will pay an average of $1.71 per pound for their Thanksgiving turkey this year. How much did they pay 100 years ago?

A: 23 cents a pound

B: 45 cents a pound

C: 56 cents a pound

D: 99 cents a pound

Answer: B. While 45 cents may sound cheap, turkey was far more costly a century ago. Adjusted for inflation, that 45 cents is equal to $8.10 today. By comparison, in 1923, a gallon of milk cost 35 cents; a new Chevrolet Roadster $570; and a large four-bedroom house $7,000.

3. Then, as now, sports were an important part of Thanksgiving Day festivities. What was the most popular sporting event on Thanksgiving Day in 1923?

A: Hockey matches

B: Football games

C: Boxing matches

D: Bicycle races

Answer: B. High school games began being played on Thanksgiving Day in the 1890s. By 1923, the NFL had a busy card on Nov. 29. The biggest game was the Chicago Bears 3-0 victory over the Chicago (now Arizona) Cardinals. Other games that day: Canton Bulldogs 28, Toledo Maroons 0; Green Bay Packers 19, Hammond Pros 0; and Milwaukee Badgers 16, Racine Legion 0. (All four games were shutouts!)

4. Thanksgiving in 2023 is now considered the official start of the holiday season, with Santa Claus appearing at the end of parades and Yuletide lights glowing that night. What was considered the optimal time for putting up Christmas decorations in 1923?

A. Thanksgiving week

B: Thanksgiving Day

C: The day after Thanksgiving

D: December

Answer: D. It was considered poor taste to hang decorations in November. In fact, a Christmas tradition that commenced that same year was held much later in the season than it is today. President Coolidge flipped the switch, lighting the first National Christmas Tree at 5 p.m. on December 24, 1923. (It will be held Nov. 30 this year.)

5. What time did the legendary Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade through the streets of New York City begin in 1923?

A: 10 a.m.

B: Noon

C: 1 p.m.

D: 3 p.m.

Answer: This is a trick question. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade didn’t begin until 1924. Philadelphia’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, launched in 1920, is the nation’s oldest.

6. This side dish makes the occasional cameo appearance on our Thanksgiving tables today, but it was a staple of many holiday menus in 1923.

A: Coconut

B: Venison

C: Oysters

D: Cabbage

Answer: C. Starting in the 19th century, Americans were crazy for oysters, particularly around the holidays. They appeared in stews, dressings, and (of course) on the half shell. Even in the Midwest, barrels of oysters were sent from the coast by rail in time for the Thanksgiving feast.

HOLY COW! HISTORY: How Leftover Turkey Created An American Classic

A common question is repeated these days from Alaska to Maine: What will we do with the leftover turkey? It’s as much a part of the holiday tradition as the dressing and pumpkin pie.

There are always the usual options. Turkey casserole, turkey hash, turkey noodle soup, turkey tetrazzini, and, of course, that old, reliable standby, a cold turkey sandwich.

A company had the same problem on its hands in 1953, only on a scale infinitely larger than your refrigerator. And what it did with all that leftover bird created an American classic. But let’s start a little before that.

The frozen food business was on a roll throughout the middle of the 20th century. Clarence Birdseye discovered how to flash-freeze fish in 1929, creating a new industry. By 1945, Maxson Food Systems sold complete frozen meals to the military and commercial airlines. In 1949, the first frozen dinners appeared in the Pittsburgh area, packaged in paperboard containers. They expanded to much of the East Coast three years later.

In 1950, Nebraska-based C.A. Swanson began selling oven-ready pot pies and turkeys. Business was brisk. Then, in 1953, someone in the company goofed. Badly. The supply of frozen turkeys it had produced far exceeded the demand. Swanson was stuck with 260 tons of it in 10 refrigerated railroad cars. And get this: The cooling system worked only when those cars were moving, meaning Swanson had to keep the cars traveling to keep the turkey from going bad. A solution was needed, and it was needed ASAP.

Necessity, they say, is the mother of invention. The answer came from a company salesman.

Gerry Thomas had tried frozen dinners on airline flights the year before and was impressed by them. He immediately rolled into action, ordering aluminum trays similar to those used on airplanes (and based on trays the military had used in World War II). He filled them with sliced frozen turkey, cornbread dressing with gravy, and peas.

The concept was astonishingly simple. Housewives popped them into the oven, waited  25 minutes, and then — presto! — dinner was served. All for 98 cents each. (Though that wasn’t the bargain it sounds like today. It was pricey in 1953. That 98 cents is about $11.40 today.)

We don’t know who came up with “TV dinners.” There’s a widely believed misconception that the new product was intended to be eaten while watching television. Not true. The new medium was all the rage in 1953, so Swanson piggybacked it by slapping “TV” on the box.

(It’s a tried-and-true marketing gimmick. Consider the Charleston Chew candy bar. Many folks mistakenly presume it originated in Charleston, S.C. In fact, when a Massachusetts candymaker began producing it in the 1920s, the Charleston dance craze was in full swing. Hence the sweet treat’s name.)

Back to the TV dinner. Swanson rolled out 5,000 of its new frozen meals. Company executives held their breath. Would American consumers like it? They didn’t have to wait long for the answer.

The TV dinner was an instant hit. The first 5,000 meals sold out almost immediately. It turned out that busy moms were willing to pay for the convenience of quickly and easily feeding their hungry young Baby Boomer kids.

That original turkey overrun in ’53 turned out to have been a very lucrative mistake. Another round of TV dinners was immediately ordered. It, too, sold exceptionally well. By 1954, 10 million units had been bought. Business was so good Swanson gave up its profitable butter and margarine line to focus on the new product. The company expanded to 20 plants with a combined workforce of 4,000 to keep pace with the demand.

The original TV dinners are still around, though microwave food has greatly diminished its market share. It’s estimated that 127.9 million of them were consumed in 2020; it’s projected to jump to 130.5 million next year.

Not bad for a product that all started with 260 tons of leftover turkey. It makes that half a bird still lingering in your fridge look puny in comparison, doesn’t it?

BROWNBACK: 120,000 Reasons U.S. Must Act to Save Christians in Armenia

The heart of the world’s first Christian nation may soon stop beating.

Will those aspiring to be the next president of the United States stand up with moral clarity and pledge support against those who seek to eradicate it? Genocide against Christians looms in the Caucasus, and the United States looks away and even arms its perpetrators.

Some history: In the year 301, Armenia became the first country to convert to Christianity. Armenian Christians populated Artsakh and dotted its landscape with churches and monasteries. It has ever since been a Christian land. Christianity permeates its rivers, valleys and mountains. Ancient Armenian cross stones, each one unique, dot its landscape. When Turks launched genocide against Armenians in 1915, they tried to overrun Artsakh but failed.

Today, Turkey and Azerbaijan try again. During a recent trip to Armenia, I stood on a mountaintop and saw Azerbaijani troops miles inside the recognized border of Armenia. I drove past a burnt-out car whose occupants, contractors for an American company, Azerbaijani snipers shot.

One place I could not go was Artsakh. Ten months ago, Azerbaijan blockaded Artsakh even though Azerbaijan’s president, Ilham Aliyev, had just two years before guaranteed their free passage. He has cut off gas, water, electricity and internet. Their goal? Starve the region’s 120,000 Christians. Amid Western silence, he is succeeding.

Aliyev’s actions should not surprise. He takes the worst Soviet pedigree and mixes it with an embrace of Islamism. His father, Heydar Aliyev, was a KGB chief whom Soviet Premier Leonid Brezhnev promoted into the Politburo. Joseph Stalin stripped Artsakh away from Armenia to undermine Christianity, renamed it Nagorno-Karabakh, and awarded it to Azerbaijan. Its people protested and, as the Soviet Union fell, voted by a 99 percent margin to leave that Muslim dictatorship. The Aliyevs have since sought to bring the Christians to heel.

To win the White House is to lead the Free World. America thrives because of its Christian values. Americans must ask those seeking to represent them whether silence in the face of anti-Christian genocide is appropriate and whether the next president should speak out for religious freedom. Armenians ask only that the United States and Europe stop funding a country that seeks to eliminate one of the world’s oldest Christian communities.

A quarter century ago, President Bill Clinton traveled to Africa. The world might have prevented the Rwandan genocide but failed. He promised Washington would “strengthen our stand against those who would commit such atrocities in the future here or elsewhere.” Leaders likewise swore “never again” after Serb militants slaughtered thousands at Srebrenica as the United Nations did nothing.

Doing nothing is easy, but it is not leadership. Religious freedom matters. When it comes to Artsakh, there are today 120,000 reasons to act.

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Will DelVal Residents Purchase Organic Turkeys for Thanksgiving Amid Rising Food Prices?

With Thanksgiving almost upon us, will families splurge on organic turkeys instead of regular ones for the iconic meal.

Inflation has been rising in the Delaware Valley and throughout the U.S. Some families are concerned about whether they can afford to have this alternative turkey. For example, at Whole Foods Market, an Organic Heirloom Whole Turkey is $4.99/lb but offers a discounted price of $2.49/lb for Amazon Prime members.

While most families usually purchase traditional turkeys for Thanksgiving, many stores, including Giant, make sure they have enough in stock well before the holiday season.

“We start working on our turkey order early in the year to make sure we are set to meet the needs of our customers and ordered more turkeys than we sold last year, so we are confident in our supply,” Ashley Flower, spokeswoman for The Giant Company, told PennLive.

DelVal residents also must consider purchasing other side dishes for Thanksgiving. According to a study, Pennsylvania’s spicy candied sweet potatoes (which requires canned sweet potatoes, pecans, pumpkin pie spice, mini marshmallows, and orange juice concentrate) are 10.49 percent more expensive this year. This famous side dish now costs $30.97 this year, compared to $27.72 last year.

While the pandemic impacted the past two Thanksgivings, some families may wait another year to host a large gathering because of the increase in food costs.

Inflation has wreaked havoc on food prices across the country, with a rise of 11.2 percent for  all food costs this September compared to last year. The cost of groceries, in particular soaring by 13 percent, and for this reason, it appears families will sacrifice some of their usual traditional dishes or reduce how many people will be invited to this year’s meal. That is, according to a comprehensive study by Usko, a new free app that lets users analyze their Amazon spending and see how much products they regularly purchase have gone up due to inflation.

The company identified signature Thanksgiving dishes from each state and then broke down the ingredients for each to determine how much more each dish would cost this year compared to last year.

A survey of 1,000 respondents by Usko also revealed that over 21 percent of people believe the higher cost of ingredients would impact their plans this Thanksgiving. Indeed, for those wondering how much they spend either in-store or on sites like Amazon, a quick comparison with last year’s bank statement will likely prompt them to make changes to this year’s Thanksgiving meal. Those respondents also said they would be prepared to cancel the traditional Thanksgiving menu and choose a cheaper and low-cost meal instead.

In addition, over a third of those hosting Thanksgiving, this November plan to invite fewer guests to save money. Of those who are cooking, 68 percent also say they expect to have fewer leftovers this year, given the increasing food.

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HOLY COW! HISTORY: Thanksgiving, America’s Original Beer Bash

A holiday question persists year after year, probably stretching all the way back to the first Thanksgiving feast in 1621. “What are we going to do with all the uneaten turkey?”

(For a full range of post-Thanksgiving turkey menu options, turn to Ralphie’s gastronomical rant at the end of “A Christmas Story.”)

The Pilgrims, on the other hand, could have asked a different question after that first celebration exactly 400 years ago: “What are we going to do with all the empty kegs?”

Because the Pilgrims drank beer with their big meal. Lots and lots of beer, in fact.

It’s one tradition that somehow didn’t get passed down over the years. Which is why nobody ever says while gathered around Aunt Margaret’s elegantly appointed Thanksgiving table, “Pass the Pabst Blue Ribbon, will you?”

But trust me, beer was there in 1621.

In fact, beer was the reason the Pilgrims set foot in Massachusetts in the first place.

After two months at sea, the travelers were facing several pressing problems. First, despite having originally set out for the Virginia Colony, they were way off course. The trip had lasted much longer than expected. But worst of all, they were running low on beer. Dangerously low.

Each person was issued roughly one gallon of suds every day. And although the journey was a one-way trip for the Pilgrims, Captain Christopher Jones and the Mayflower’s crew would have to recross the Atlantic to get home, and he worried there wouldn’t be enough to last.

William Bradford was growing anxious about the dwindling beer supply. That was why the group ultimately decided to drop anchor and set foot on Cape Cod. You know the story from there.

Let’s face it: Though they are key players in tale of America’s founding, Pilgrims weren’t exactly party animals. “Fun” is a word rarely associated with them. Then why did they drink so much of a beverage far more likely to be consumed at a frat party or biker rally than at a Baptist convention?

Because beer was how they stayed hydrated. The water carried onboard the Mayflower quickly grew brackish and turned into a health hazard. The brewing process killed dangerous organisms and made the water in beer safe to drink. Even when the Pilgrims finally came ashore in Massachusetts, they had to be very careful with the water they found there. Remember, there were no water departments back then to purify drinking water. Brewing it was their safest bet.

In fact, there’s a theory of human history that the discovery of distilled spirits — heavy on calories, light on dangerous microorganisms — was key to the development of modern society. Forget Homo Sapien. We should be honoring Homer Simpson.

And make no mistake—the Pilgrims weren’t popping open bottles of O’Doul’s non-acholic beer. The brewskis they downed (even the kids) contained six percent alcohol. It was the real McCoy.

As Puritanism spread throughout New England and safe water sources were discovered, beer consumption gradually fell out of favor. Since early preachers associated it with sin, it wouldn’t do to perpetuate its legacy during the annual fall feast. Beer was quietly erased from the menu of the first Thanksgiving.

Quite a few other items that were served in 1621 aren’t consumed at today’s Thanksgiving dinner as well. Not many Americans stuff themselves with venison, cabbage, peas, wild onions, or boiled cornmeal. All were likely served that first time along with grapes, gooseberries, and plums.

We also know the very first Thanksgiving lasted three days. The ample beer supply explains that.

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HOLY COW! HISTORY: Teddy’s Traumatized Thanksgiving Turkey

Call it the first ‘Fake News’ White House feud. And it arrived just in time for the holiday season. Of 1904.

In the early days of the 20th century, Theodore Roosevelt’s brood burst into the White House in a whirlwind of activity unseen since Tad and Willie Lincoln ran wild there 50 years earlier. The children were, to use the polite wording of the day, rambunctious. The country was fascinated by its youthful president (he was 46 at the time) and his six energetic offspring. They made good copy, in newspaper jargon.

For example, they gave The Boston Herald a colorful story a few days before Thanksgiving. It described how when a live turkey was delivered to the White House for the First Family’s feast, the youngest Roosevelt kids gleefully chased it around the grounds. They tormented the animal and even plucked its feathers as it ran. TR supposedly watched the scene with great amusement.

Not content to let a good thing go, a Herald columnist called “The Chatterer” wrote the next day, “Apparently the Roosevelt children are chips off the old block and possess their full share of juvenile irresponsibleness. But why should they be allowed to torment and frighten an innocent turkey?”

But Teddy wasn’t laughing when the story reached his desk. In fact, he blew a gasket.

He was so worked up, he ranted about it during a Cabinet meeting, where his agriculture secretary helpfully pointed out it’s impossible to pluck a running turkey’s feathers.

The whole thing was a lie, the president growled. He explained the bird had arrived dead, dressed, and ready to cook, so his kids couldn’t have chased it, much less pulled off its feathers. Roosevelt vowed he would “stop newspaper stories of that kind.”

So, early that same evening the White House press shop issued a news release saying, “No such incident as that recited in the Herald has ever taken place since the president has been in the White House.” It went on to say the story, “marks the culmination of a long series of similar falsehoods, usually malicious and always deliberate, which have appeared in the news columns of the Boston Herald.”

And it didn’t stop there. Teddy was so furious, he banned the reporter who wrote the original account from the White House and instructed all federal agencies to give the Herald the silent treatment.

Painted into a journalistic corner, the newspaper fired back. It made a half-hearted mea culpa by admitting, “…the Herald finds that it has been the means of circulating statements which have no foundation in truth.” Then it proceeded to point out Roosevelt had made several erroneous statements. A rival paper called the apology “a trifle sarcastic.”

Now it was on in earnest as newspapers around the country weighed in. Minnesota’s St. Paul Globe opined, “It is an outrage that a public man should be pilloried through his children.” In the bombastic Southern manner of the era, the Charleston, S.C. Post took it a step further saying the reporter should be “condemned to be shot from the mouth of a cannon on the Washington Monument.”

But it ceased being a laughing matter when the U.S. Weather Bureau in Boston stopped giving the Herald its weather maps and New England forecasts.

That was too much even for Roosevelt supporters, who began criticizing him for going too far. The Manchester Union in New Hampshire got straight to the point, calling the president’s response, “censorship and nothing else.”

Maybe the Yuletide spirit brought a little peace on earth and goodwill toward men that season. Because as December drew to a close, the crisis quietly faded away. The whole laughable incident concluded with a chuckle.

The Chicago Tribune ended the saga the day after Christmas with one of the best one-line news reports of all time: “There were no White House turkey stories in the esteemed Boston Herald yesterday.”

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