Giving Thanks


Americans have celebrated the annual Thanksgiving holiday so long that it has become part of our national mythology. In fact, it has only been an official, national celebration since 1863, proclaimed by President Abraham Lincoln as a way of uniting a disheartened and divided country during the American Civil War.

Plimoth Plantation reenactment of the first Thanksgiving in 1621


The holiday itself has many roots, and interweaves Native American traditions of giving thanks for rich harvests  with Puritan ones of celebration a good harvest after hard years of travel, weather, and labor. The Puritan custom evolved into a New England custom of annual thanksgiving that was declared yearly in the Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Plymouth colonies and celebrated on a weekday to offer citizens an additional day of rest in their week.





By the eighteenth century (1700s), the family dinner table overshadowed the religious resonance of the event. As New England settlers moved further west, they took this custom with them.

The Continental Congress declared a national day of Thanksgiving in 1777, as a solemn day of observance in the face of the difficulties of the Revolutionary War. George Washington, John Adams, and John Monroe declared such days sporadically during their presidencies, but the custom died out by the 1820s.


In 1827, a woman wrote a novel called Northwood: A Tale of New England, in which the family celebrated an annual Thanksgiving dinner. This became significant only after the author, Sarah Josepha Buell Hale, became the influential editor of a new kind of news source: the women’s magazine.

Sarah Josepha Hale was a widowed mother and a poet and author. A native New Englander, she grew up celebrating Thanksgiving. Her novel Northwood attracted the attention of The Ladies’ Magazine, and she was hired as editor in 1828. In 1837, Louis Godey took over the magazine and changed its name to Godey’s Lady’s Book. Godey and Hale collaborated on the title for the next 40 years.



Godey’s Lady’s Book became the most popular magazine of its day. By 1840 it had circulation of 40,000. By 1860, it reached 150,000 subscribers. While avoiding overt politics, Hale did make use of her influence to further causes such as promoting education for women (she helped found Vasser), publishing the work of women authors, promoting child welfare laws, and establishing Washington’s Mount Vernon home as a national monument. Hale advocated widely for a national celebration of Thanksgiving as well. In 1863 she wrote President Lincoln and Secretary of State William Seward calling on them to establish this as an official, national holiday.  Lincoln did so, as an attempt to unify a nation at Civil War.





For the next 50 years or so, Thanksgiving continued to be proclaimed annually by the President, usually on the last Thursday in November. In 1941, Congress proclaimed the holiday an annual one, to be celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November, as we do to this day.

We hope you have a restful and delicious Thanksgiving feast!


Enjoy this gallery of gorgeous vintage Thanksgiving postcards:

Here the Smithsonian museums have put together a collection of Thanksgiving-themed objects, gifts, and activities:

This listing includes a playlist on the Smithsonian’s recording label, Folkways:




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Magazine of the Week

Welcome back everyone, and happy Thanksgiving!

In honor of the American holiday of pies, we give you the piefest that is Better Homes & Gardens this month. Wait, yes, you’re supposed to be considering your blessings all week and then eat with your loved ones to celebrate them! We want you to do that, too, and later this week the post will be more on the history of Thanksgiving, which is also closely related to the world of magazines. But you can also get cool pie recipes to play with over the weekend.


Better Homes & Gardens (or BHG, as they abbreviate it), is published 12 times a year, by the Meredith Women’s Corporation, and is named after the magazine’s founder, Edwin Meredith. Meredith began his career working on his grandfather’s newspaper, The Farmer’s Tribune. His work on this paper raised his visability with the Iowa farmers, encouraging him to try politics. After failing at both a run for U.S. senate and governor, President Woodrow Wilson appointed him to several posts in his cabinet. Meredith began BHG in 1922, after he stepped down as the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture.




It is one of the “Seven Sisters”, a group of popular American women’s magazines aimed primarily at homemakers. The fourth-best-selling magazine in the U.S. market, it addresses cooking, gardening, crafts, healthy living, decorating, and entertaining. We have access to all of these electronically through ProQuest’s Women’s Magazine Archive:


Meredith has become a big media powerhouse, and publishes such popular titles as Martha Stewart Living, Rachel Ray Everyday, and Parents Magazine, to name just a few. They also own numerous local television stations throughout the southern and midwestern United States. Most recently, they are currently negotiating to buy Time, Inc.:

What’s interesting is that BH&G has really stepped up their game in the last few years. They have taken to heart the competition of bloggers and the newer titles in the genre.




The ads may have remained a combination of pharmaceuticals and food producers, but the editorial content is attractively photographed, creative, and current. Not to mention that BH&G has always been the title aimed at the affordable good life, and that sense of style-with-thrift continues.



For more on the various food-related titles we subscribe to, take a look at this post from last year:




Better Homes and Gardens.

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Tailored remembrance

I found this gorgeous book on the “New Books” shelf and had to pick it up:


It’s got all those things I love: gorgeous photography of beautifully-made clothing, tailoring, the history of a business and how it fit into the city around it, pictures of men and women wearing the clothes made by the tailors, hilarious images of old advertising campaigns, and an appreciation of well-fit, well-made clothing.

Walter Beauchamp: A Tailored History of Toronto

“The history of most tailors is preserved in their paperwork: not their business receipts    and invoices, but the measurement ledgers and paper patterns they create for each customer. In the ledgers are recorded the intimate details of each body, including the exact measurements of the belly, the shoulders, and even the seat-measurements that are sometimes hidden from customers to shield them from uncomfortable truths.” (Mendes, Introduction xiii)

Officers in the British military were responsible for their own non-combat uniforms. Beauchamps established themselves as tailors of military garments by World War I.

Tailoring, like couture, is an intimate art. The materials and stitches turn rectangles of cloth and canvas and cotton wool into clothing that lies on top of the human form, and transforms it. It seems old fashioned to go to a physical shop and have a person measure one, then make a specific garment just especially to fit one’s own shape, instead buying an anonymous garment made by someone in another country to generic specifications that appears magically in one’s mail bin. It’s hard to remember that this intimacy, a relationship with a single person who knew one’s uncomfortable shaped secrets, was the dominant form for centuries and that our mass-produced fast-shipped way of life is the recent cultural anomaly.

Walter Beauchamps’s use of “Tailoring for Young Men” and the set price of $24 were clever marketing ploys.

Toronto in the 1900s was growing rapidly, and its largest business was the clothing industry. Young Walter Beauchamp (pronounced “BEE-chum”) returned there from (unsuccessful) adventures as a cattle rancher and wanted to start a business with his childhood friend, Alfred How. How had been working as a cutter at a tailoring shop and wanted to go out on his own. Beauchamp had the social contacts to draw a good clientele, as well as the marketing acumen to promote a successful business. The company made early use of advertising and the term “Tailors’ Row” to promote the business area where they set up shop. Together they formed the original men’s tailoring shop Beauchamp & How in October 1908.


Canadian officers were responsible for their own non-combat gear. When World War I broke out in 1914, Toronto’s young men enlisted. The need for dress uniforms helped establish Beauchamps & How securely as a trusted military tailor in the area with the watchwords “It is our duty to look after those who serve their country.” More military uniforms remain of their historical work than do of their civilian work. This book has lovely detail shots of this gear.*





In the 1960s, as menswear grew more casual in styling, the firm launched a playful ad campaign to keep their company in the public eye. The firm publicized a contest on how to pronounce the owner’s name. The prize was admission to the Playboy Club in New York City. The ads featured a fully-clothed Playboy bunny, but were still racy for the time. The audacious campaign angered the Walter Beauchamp Jr.’s wife, but succeeded in bringing a fresh crop of young customers into the store.






This picture, taken in 1983, shows four generations of the Beauchamp family.

Walter Beauchamp: A Tailored History of Toronto is a colorful and personal walk through changing menswear industry of the twentieth century. Come take a look!





*the beautiful shots of perfectly tailored, slightly worn military uniforms in this book reminded me of the book Vintage Menswear: A Collection from the Vintage Showroom, which I wrote about here:

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