An Air of Festivity: Planning Your Thanksgiving

As Thanksgiving dinner approaches, last-minute questions always arise: What should be on the menu? What about the table decorations? How does one actually cook a turkey? What are the appropriate place settings? A quick Google search for the answers to these questions (and others) may be the most tempting approach, but this holiday season, why not try more “tried and true” solutions to your food queries and turn to South Carolina’s historic newspapers instead? These papers are chock full of recipes, menus, and even party-planning and decorating advice for the holidays! We found a few examples to get you started:

“A Thanksgiving dinner should have an air of festivity, but at the same time it should not be too heavy or involve too much work in its preparation.” Some pretty sound advice from an article in the Manning Times printed in November 1921. Even the article’s headline offers helpful guidance for the meal: “A Thanksgiving Turkey Has No Real Substitute.” And if these words of wisdom aren’t enough, this article goes on to include “a simple thanksgiving menu,” a recipe for stuffing, detailed directions on baking a turkey, and the proper way to prepare giblet gravy.

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Thanksgiving Proclamation cartoon in a Davis, Roper and Company advertisement in the Laurens Advertiser.

While still in the planning mode, take a look at this 1916 issue of the Laurens Advertiser which offers four possible Thanksgiving menus, all starting with an appetizer and ending with an after-dinner coffee. Also try this “Hints for Housewives” section of the Edgefield Advertiser which provides an article on delivering “A Simple, Satisfactory Dinner” for Thanksgiving. Included in this feature from 1900 are a menu, suggestions for table arrangements, and recipes for cranberry pie, pumpkin pie, salted nuts, Thanksgiving pudding, and ribbon jelly. As you get closer to the holiday, check out “The Holiday Housewife’s Plans” in this issue of the Edgefield Advertiser from 1897 that details how to break up the cooking and baking across several days in preparation for the meal.

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See four potential dinner menus for a Thanksgiving meal in this feature by the Laurens Advertiser.

The turkey is, of course, typically the star of the show at Thanksgiving. When you’re ready to tackle the main event, this 1897 article in the Edgefield Advertiser shows readers just as its title suggests: “Various Ways of Cooking a Turkey.” But what to do with all that turkey left in the aftermath of a holiday meal? The Anderson Intelligencer answers this question in an article featuring several recipes in which leftover turkey can be incorporated.

If turkey isn’t your thing, never fear! Orangeburg’s Times and Democrat was one step ahead of you with their 1908 article, “Hog Killing Time.” Full of “good old Southern recipes,” this write-up provides several recipes to “make all sorts of good things” from a hog including pork chops, hog feet, liver mush and more.

Want more Thanksgiving recipes and ideas from newspapers around the country? Check out the Vermont Digital Newspaper Project’s Flickr page as well as these great blogs posts: “Holiday Foodways” from the National Endowment Humanities and “Across Texas, Across Time: Newspaper Recipes for Your Thanksgiving Table” by the Texas Digital Newspaper Program. Also try searching or browsing on your own through the papers in Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers for more great advice and recipes for the holidays.

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