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Thanksgiving

Here at Maine Maritime Museum we are thankful for a collection that has something for every occasion. Grab a chair and join us.

Imported dishes with turkey motifs became popular in the 19th century for entertaining during the holidays; this particular example was shipped in from Germany. A lot of mischief seems to be happening in the center of the plate. The boy is playing with the turkeys—adopted pets that his parents surely will only let him keep on the dinner table. Another turkey has its eye on an apple that the girl has dropped, perhaps as a final meal.Transferware Plate
Gift of Albert L. Prosser

Thanksgiving weekend has long been one of the busiest travel days of the year and drivers are reminded to take their time on slick and hazardous roads.

A similar warning could have been given to the schooner Rodney Parker, which on Thanksgiving Day, 1905, grounded at Willard Beach in South Portland. Adding insult to injury, a number of photographs captured the incident. Some, like the one here, were reprinted as postcards.

And it is an odd image to grace heartfelt greetings between family members. Although not written for Thanksgiving, the note from “Momma” to her son Ken will be familiar to any son or daughter that has spent a holiday elsewhere. “I hope you are having a nice time” but “we missed you dreadfully last night.” “Love from Momma.”Wreck at Willard Beach Postcard
c. 1907
Nathan R. Lipfert Research Library

A few hundred feet from Willard Beach is Fort Preble, where in 1918 the Coastal Artillery Corps was readying an impressive menu for Thanksgiving. There are your standards—mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, roast turkey with sage dressing. But to top off the evening, soldiers were able to gobble up ice cream, cake, candy, cigars and cigarettes, and perhaps the most glorious words written on any menu—“assorted pies.”Thanksgiving Menu for Coastal Artillery Corps
1918
Portland Harbor Museum Collection

Every turkey requires a nice, sharp carving knife. Unfortunately this wooden letter opener would not fit the bill. It was carved from flotsam recovered from the steamer Portland, which wrecked off Cape Cod the Sunday after Thanksgiving, 1898. Between 193 and 245 people—many of them returning to Portland from Boston after the holiday—perished.

Using it daily to open bills and letters may have reminded its owner to be thankful for each safe voyage of a beloved family member.Letter Opener
1898
Gift of Roy Smith

Turkey red” was a popular color for dying cotton in the 18th and 19th century, particularly for American patchwork quilts. The dye was formulated using the root of the rubia plant and was exported to Europe and the Americas from Turkey. It was for this reason that it was called “Turkey red,” but advertising encouraged the notion that it was named after the poultry, not the country. Embroidery Cotton
Burden Collection

Everyone’s greatest fear on Thanksgiving is overcooking the turkey. This one seems to be just on the verge of being a dry, unpleasant roast. But fortunately it’s no big deal, especially with this bird measuring in at 3/8 by 2 inches. Certainly not meant to feed the whole family, this prize turkey was in fact a toy for a child’s dollhouse.

The realistic skin is in fact colored wax, which has grown crispier with time and has flaked off, exposing the white meat (ceramic) underneath.

I’m done too.

Toy Turkey and Roasting Pan
Gift of Albert L. Prosser


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Christopher Timm
Curator of Exhibits
ctimm@maritimeme.org