Thanksgiving is one of those times during the year to bring out all the cookware to prepare a feast – and one that is rich in tradition and history, although perhaps a little different than what’s become familiar.
Some of the cookware used to create Thanksgiving feasts over the years and various reproductions can be seen at the Delaware County Historical Society Museum, Library & Research Center.
While many attest the first Thanksgiving to the 1621 version of the Plymouth pilgrims and Native Americans, there continues to be debate about whether similar celebrations in Virginia – or even ones in Texas and in Florida years earlier – were the actual first.
In any case, Thanksgiving seemed to have its roots in celebrations of gratitude due to bountiful harvests.
At the 1621 feast, it was believed that venison, corn, fowl and barley were part of the menu, but certainly not turkey, pumpkin pie or potatoes.
That didn’t come later, thanks, in part, due to the efforts of Sarah Josepha Hale.
Hale was editor of the Godey’s Ladies Magazine, as well as the writer of “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”
She was also a big advocate of Thanksgiving, as she lobbied avidly for almost three decades to have it officially declared a national holiday.
It had been celebrated – George Washington had the first national Thanksgiving on Thursday, Nov. 26, 1789.
But, it wasn’t until Abraham Lincoln heeded Hale’s call in 1863 and officially proclaimed the celebration a national holiday.
Besides her Thanksgiving advocacy, Hale also printed recipes for turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie, which eventually became staples of the feast, even down to modern day.
The dates of the holiday switched around a bit. Lincoln first marked the last Thursday in November as the time to commemorate Thanksgiving. However, it was moved up during the Depression in an attempt to stimulate sales for retailers with a longer holiday shopping season.
In 1941, Franklin Delano Roosevelt finalized its date, with a joint resolution of Congress, setting it as the fourth Thursday in November forevermore.
Forty-eight years later, George H.W. Bush was the first to grant a presidential pardon to one turkey, a move that has been replicated by every president since then.
To see some of the cookware used in creating all types of meals of yesteryear, come visit the Delaware County Historical Society Museum, Library & Research Center. The museum is open to the public from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday and Friday; 1 to 6:30 p.m. Thursday; and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. The museum’s telephone number is 610-872-0502. Parking is free on the society lot behind the building or across the street in the municipal lot.
Membership in the Delaware County Historical Society ranges from $10 for students, $27 for individuals to $250 at the patron level. It includes free admission to the society’s Chester museum and library at 408 Avenue of the States, the society newsletter and preferred reservations and discounts for lectures and events. To join, please visit www.padelcohistory.org or call 610-359-0832.
Bowls, pots and mugs are among the cookware collection at the Delaware County Historical Society.