Thanksgiving is a beloved holiday, and it’s easy to see why. Families and friends come together to stuff themselves with delicious food, express gratitude, and sometimes fall asleep on the couch while watching football on TV.

It’s widely believed that the first Thanksgiving meal was in 1621, shared between the Pilgrims who had settled in Plymouth, Massachusetts and the Wampanoag Indians. Much of the iconography of the vintage Thanksgiving postcards created between 1898 and 1918 comes from the myths surrounding that first Thanksgiving. Images feature Pilgrims in quaint old-fashioned white-and-black garb, pointed hats, white bonnets, and buckled shoes. In contrast, the Indians are often shown as caricatures, barely dressed with brightly colored face paint, feathers, headdresses, and beads. Modern-day historians say none of this is remotely true to the real event.

Turkeys, too, show up in many a vintage Thanksgiving postcards, even though the Pilgrims and Wampanoags didn’t dine on turkey that day, either. Still, it’s hard not to be grateful when you’re present with a turkey feast including pumpkin pie, corn, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, and a cornucopia of other delights, regardless whether it was on the first Thanksgiving menu.

More than 200 years passed after that first Thanksgiving before a U.S. president, Abraham Lincoln, decided this holiday would be commemorated on the last Thursday of November. Even later still, in 1941, Congress made Thanksgiving Day a national holiday, after a campaign by magazine editor Sarah Josepha Hale, who penned the nursery rhyme "Mary Had a Little Lamb."

Even though Victorian Thanksgiving postcards were made by top postcard publishers (Raphael Tuck) and postcard artists (Ellen Clapsaddle), they are possibly the least collected of holiday postcards. This is possibly because the colors and images tend to be more subdued, like a tryptophan-induced coma.

However, Samuel Schumucker, known for his Halloween cards, did some of his very best work for this holiday in cards published by John Winsch. Some of the best Winsch cards have die-cut pop-up parts called projections. The mysterious postcard artist that generally signed his or her illustrations as “H.B.G.” proudly signed two Thanksgiving cards as “H.B. Griggs.”

Some of the most collectible Thanksgiving cards are what’s known as Hold-to-Light cards. These may have an outline of an image covered by thin layers of paper so that a part of the picture only reveals itself when held up to a light. Others simply have die cut stained-glass-window effects using thin pieces of colored paper. Some of the most coveted Thanksgiving cards depict Uncle Sam or Lady Liberty with a turkey.

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)



Andreas Praefcke's postcard collection of theatres and concert halls worldwide. Showcases 3700 images of over 1810 … [read review or visit site]

Tall Tale Postcards

Tall Tale Postcards

Don't let this one get away from you. This 'unbelievable' collection, from the Wisconsin Historical Society, featur… [read review or visit site]

Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Turkey Dressed As Uncle Sam Inside Squash Frame~nash~thanksgiving Token~1907+5 Antique Postcards Antique Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, New YearTurkey Pulling Boy Sitting On Pumpkin Cart~thanksgiving~1909~wheat Border9+1 Vintage Old Holiday Thanksgiving Postcards Turkeys Fruits Lady - ColorfulLarge Turkey With Glass Bowl Of Cranberry Sauce & Pumpkin Pie-1907 Thanksgiving1910 Postcard Happy Thanksgiving, Turkey's On Pumpkin See-saw1910 Embossed Postcard Children With Tall Corn, Happy ThanksgivingThanksgiving~turkey Breaks Through Decorated Envelope~pumpkin~corn~farm~embossThanksgiving~lil Colonial Boy Shoots Musket Over Turkeys Head~gold Back~embossThanksgiving Souvenirs Postcard Spinning Wheel Fireplace Pumpkins Corn GiltCa 1909 Ellen Clapsaddle Thanksgiving Postcard Girl Knife Pumpkin Pies MinceThanksgiving~gossamer Cherub Carries Exaggerated Ear Of Corn~clouds~gold EmbossThanksgiving Turkey Pumpkin Feathers Post Card PcThanksgiving Turkey Eating A Date "digesting The Calendar" Antique Pc V6496Thanksgiving Postcard Embossed Boy And Girl With A Turkey On His Shoulders #kThanksgiving Greetings Antique Postcard 1909 Vintage Embossed Turkey & GirlEmbossed Big Turkey And A Big Ear Of Corn, "thanksgiving Day, Thank God You'reVintage Thanksgiving Postcard-bergman 19121919 Embossed Stecher Thanksgiving Postcard Purple White Turkey Series 839 A #471911 Thanksgiving Gold Embossed Man Hunting With Dog And Gun Postcard #41Thanksgiving Postcard 127 - Turkey Perched On A Branch, Red White & Blue RibbonThanksgiving Postcard 128 - Turkey And Pumpkin Fruit BowlThanksgiving Postcard 123 - Turkey And Wheat Harvesting SceneThanksgiving Postcard #52 - Turkeys, Wishbones And Scenic ViewThanksgiving Postcard #38 - Pilgrim Up A Tree Axe On Ground Angry TurkeyThanksgiving Postcard #31 - Turkey Perched On KnifeThanksgiving Postcard #42 - Turkey, Red White And Blue RibbonThanksgiving Postcard 111 - Turkey, Pumpkin Grapes Thanksgiving Postcard #101 - Wishbone Over Turkey Oval Scenic ViewThanksgiving Postcard 140 - Young Boys Climbing Fence To See TurkeyThanksgiving Postcard #50 - Turkey, Winter Scene And WishboneNice Lot Of 2 Children & Turkeys Vintage Antique Thanksgiving Postcards-ggg204Patriotic Uncle Sam & Turkey Thanksgiving Postcard Emb GoldLarge Thanksgiving Turkey Embossed Vintage Postcard ~bLine Of Turkeys Below Counter With Pie & Basket Of Food-1909 Thanksgiving PcAfull & Festive Thanksgiving Apples Boy W Turkey Pumpkin 1915 Vintage Postcard Children On Stone Wall Feeding Turkeys - 1918 Thanksgiving Postcard - T.2Female Turkey By Flowers, Pineapple, Nut, Plums, Strawberries-1913 Thanksgiving1911 Thanksgiving Postcard Of Fireplace, Burning Candle, & Turkey In The Yard1909 Tuck Thanksgiving Pc Of Big Turkey Pulling Cart With Chef On Top Of PumpkinColorful Oak Leaves With Acorns By Turkey On 1912 Thanksgiving Postcard-pc 2461913 Thanksgiving Postcard W/pretty Girl, Tom Turkey & PumpkinThanksgiving Postcard Embossed Turkey Pulling A Girls Dress As She Runs #kCordial Thanksgiving Greetings Boys And Turkey Vintage Greetings Postcard1914 Postcard Thanksgiving Joys, Pilgrim With Long Rifle, TurkeyThanksgiving Greetings Turkeys Wheat Berries C1910 Embossed Postcard