Civil War Blog

A project of PA Historian

Thanksgiving Day – 1860

Posted By on November 25, 2010

In November 1860, Thanksgiving was traditionally celebrated in the United States as a religious observance, not a national holiday.  It wasn’t until 1863, by the time the Civil War was in full force, that President Lincoln proclaimed a National Day of Thanksgiving.  So, 150 years ago, the date of giving thanks was Thursday, November 22, 1860.   What were the people of Pennsylvania thinking as the world as they knew it would soon come to an end?

Virtually none of the soon-to-become soldiers had known war.  The only war that had taken place during their lifetimes was too remote in place (Texas and Mexico) and they were probably too young to know or remember anything about it.  The fourteen year old having a Thanksgiving dinner had no idea of what was to come.

Could one predict anything from the newspaper of that day?  In this era, headlines were usually capitalized titles of articles that appeared in the column below them – and the important ones were in the first column.  Here’s what’s important for the day’s news:

A look at one of these stories seemed to pose no sense of urgency.

On the same front page, were  short stories, probably more of interest to many of the citizens of the Lykens Valley area than anything the president would have to say.

Does your cow produce this well?  How fast can you churn butter?

Will McCormick get patent extensions on his reaping machine?

Warning!  Don’t fall asleep on the couch too close to the stove:

A political bet lost, and a close shave with a razor sharpened on a brick:

Or, my favorite, for Thanksgiving.  The season record for bagging partridges and rabbit.  Anyone have a good recipe for partridge or rabbit?

The above items were taken from a digital version of the Philadelphia Inquirer available to library cardholders through the Free Library of Philadelphia website.  Unfortunately, the Harrisburg Patriot is not fully available for 1860 but has better representation starting in 1861.  Pennsylvania newspapers generally reported on happenings around the state, so it is most likely that the same stories were repeated in the Patriot.  Many of the smaller newspapers, such as those that would have been published in the Lykens Valley area, are not yet available in digital versions.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving.


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