Hamilton East Public Library logo

My Account

Hours & Location

Get A Library Card

November 22, 2017

Thanksgiving in 1890

Thanksgiving in 1890

By: David Heighway, Hamilton County Historian

Besides family dinner, Thanksgiving now brings to mind parades, football, and Black Friday sales.  In the past, however, it has been fairly somber.  Being rooted in the harvest celebration of the pilgrims at Plymouth and the first official proclamation in 1863 during the Civil War, the religious side was the primary focus.  You can see this by looking at how it was celebrated in Noblesville in 1890.  The city newspapers at the time, the Ledger and the Democrat, have plenty of articles.

President Benjamin Harrison issued a proclamation on November 8 designating the 27th as the day of Thanksgiving.  He himself enjoyed a quiet Thanksgiving dinner on the 27th and then opened the newly-redecorated Blue Room of White House for a reception for some Brazilian Navy officers.  The United States had been one of the first countries to recognize the newly-created Republic of Brazil (which was actually a military coup that had overthrown Emperor Pedro II).

On November 21st, Noblesville Mayor James W. Smith issued a request that businesses be closed from 10:00 AM to 2:30 PM on Thanksgiving Day.  The churches of Noblesville held a union service at the Methodist Church, which was at 10th and Clinton.  There were participants from the Christian Church, the Presbyterian Church, the Evangelical Church, and the U. B. Church.

First Ward School – which was where North Elementary is now – collected clothing for the poor and was able to get sixteen clothes baskets full.  The baskets, along with a cash donation, were marched in a procession of students led by the American flag down to the headquarters of the Ladies Aid Society.    The three lower grades of Second Ward School – which was where Seminary Park is now – collected four baskets and a cash donation.  Third Ward School was where many of the poorer students went and they were the probable recipients.  The Ladies Aid Society then distributed the donations.

There was a letter to the newspaper from “M. B. L.” about a gift of chicken pot pie from “Grandma Pettijohn” and gift of a chicken from two small girls to the “Misses Lindsey” and their family.  The letter writer said, “It stirs our pulses of gratitude, to be remembered by one whose feet will soon press the golden sands on the other shore, and the little ones who are taking their first lessons contained in that wonderful promise of our Saviour, ‘For much as ye have done it unto one of the least of these, ye have done it unto me.’  Many, many thanks.”  That is a lovely sentiment, although Grandma Pettijohn might not have appreciated being pointed out as fairly close to dying.

Despite all of this, the time was not entirely void of pre-Christmas sales pitches.  In the same newspapers that carried the reports of Thanksgiving celebrations, S. M. King had an advertisement for his store on the east side of the Courthouse square which said, “No other Christmas present is so much appreciated by the entire family as a piano or organ.  I will make special prices and terms from now during the holidays.  Call at the store and learn my offers and make your selection now.”