Norwalk, Ohio Thanksgiving – 1906

thanksgiving-1906Thanksgiving Day in 1906 fell on November 29, the last Thursday of the month, which is the day President Lincoln established in his proclamation of 1863 during the darkest days of the Civil War. It would not be until December 1941, at the beginning of another war, that President Roosevelt would sign a bill changing the day of the holiday to the fourth Thursday of the month, where it is celebrated today.

In 1906, the day of the month wasn’t the only tradition different from today. Traditions varied around the country. In many places, rowdy parades marked the day. In New York City, boys from poor families would turn out in costumes, often castoff dresses of their sisters, and beg door to door, much like children do today, trick or treating on Halloween. In New England, raffles were held for turkeys and other holiday fare.

evening-herald-friday-11-30So, what did the Norwalk High School Class of 1907 experience on Thanksgiving Day in 1906? At that time, Norwalk had two newspapers: The Daily Reflector (still published today as the Norwalk Reflector), and The Evening Herald. Neither paper published on Thanksgiving that year in honor of the holiday. Perusing both newspapers on the day before and the day after the holiday, I found no mention of members of the class. I was able, however, to sketch out what all of them would have experienced.

Thanksgiving was a day of “reunion and rejoicing,” said a New York Racket Store advertisement in The Evening Herald on Thanksgiving Eve. “Black Friday was not a tradition, but there were sales the day before the maydole-hammer-ad-27-07holiday. The Racket Store ad offered customers corsets marked down sixty per cent to four pennies. “Genuine” Maydole hammers were on sale for thirty-nine cents. The department store Steins not only had similar discounts for “Fancy Linens” and “Table Damasks,” they promised “Red Trading Stamps with every purchase.”

Many saloons in town had planned the New England tradition of raffling turkeys and geese, but the city fathers axed the event, leaving the saloon owners furiously holding the bag—a bag filled with holiday fowl instead of cash.

Thanksgiving Day in 1906 Norwalk was a family and religious holiday, just as it is today. The Evening Herald published “Lest We Forget,” a poem by Doctor T. F. Hildreth that began, “this is the Nation’s Sabbath.” The Daily Reflector ran a full column announcing family reunions and feasts, both grand and humble. Both newspapers gave readers a wide choice of church services around the town.

football-1906After church and a family dinner, residents could choose several entertainments. Football was already a Thanksgiving tradition in America dating back to the 1890s. On Thanksgiving Day, a Norwalk Men’s Team played a Cleveland squad at the Broadway Athletic Club in Cleveland to a 5-5 tie. The Daily Reflector reported that an enthusiastic crowd of 400-500 fans watched the game–and apparently took part at times. From time to time, the crowd would surge onto the field, despite the efforts of officials to keep them back. Back in Norwalk, a

sheldon-laning

Sheldon Laning

High School Team lost their match 5-5 to the Century Club. Unfortunately, The Daily Reflector reporter covering the game neglected to inform it’s readers of the names of the Norwalk High School players. However, from reports of other games, we know that Sheldon Laning and either Arthur Young or Stephen Young also were on the team.

The Gilger Theater had a performance of “The Country Jay,” staring “the jolly comedian,” Duke Vailes as “Zeb, the Jay,” and his co-star, “the petite soubrette,” Miss Beatrice Earle, as Sally.

Charity was also a thing in 1906. The Salvation Army “looked after” nine needy families, and delivered food baskets to many more. Churches took up collections at their services.

As you enjoy your Thanksgiving with family and friends, take a moment to think of those who came before us and of Thanksgivings past. Just as they did, we have the same desires this time of year—to give thanks for what we have, and for those we love.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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One Response

  1. […] there were saloons in town, the city fathers did all they could to make life hard for them, by forbidding a turkey raffle Thanksgiving Eve, for instance, leaving saloons’ proprietors holding a stock on unusable poultry. In that […]

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