A Thanksgiving Menu: an 1888 Feast

Have you ever wondered how a typical Thanksgiving menu has changed over our nation’s history? Here’s a short article from 1888, waxing eloquent about the significance of our unique holiday and offering a menu suggestion:

As the days of chill November creep along, the busy housewife ever on the alert, thinks of the coming anniversary, our national Thanksgiving; and recognizing all the causes for thankfulness enumerated in the presidential proclamation–her own heart, meanwhile, glowing with gratitude and pleasure as she thinks of the coming reunion of dear friends, remote and near–bestirs herself to provides betimes the necessary good cheer, which shall form one means of expressing that gratitude.

Allowing her the traditional bill of fare, as established by our New England ancestors, and without which no Thanksgiving feast would be deemed worthy the name, we give one containing all the regulation requisites, but formulated with more latitude than would have accorded with rigorous customs of our Puritan forefathers.

The Thanksgiving Menu

Raw oysters on the half shell

Cream Soup

Boiled Fish, Egg Sauce Boiled Potatoes

Roast Turkey, Brown Sauce Cranberry Jelly

Baked Sweet Potatoes Whipped White Potatoes

Mashed Turnips Beets

Scalloped Chicken

Celery Cheese

Mince Pie Pumpkin Pie

Orange Pudding Almond Cake

Fruit Nuts Raisins


For a menu that’s 130+ years old, it’s not as radically different from a modern Thanksgiving menu as I’d have imagined. However, it IS a little more refined, with a larger selection of dishes. Overall, though, it’s rather heavy when compared to modern tastes. What a pity– it also doesn’t include one of those deliciously good, super-processed green bean casseroles with French fried onions and canned cream of mushroom soup or one of those mysterious fluffy jello salads that only appear on holidays. Our deprived forefathers….

Happy Thanksgiving!

If you enjoy peeks into old menus, here is a Christmas Day menu from 1918.

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