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”)

Carthalia

Carthalia

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    

13 - Thanksgiving Postcards - 1900's (tuck, Clapsaddle)Thanksgiving Postcard Novelty Metal Add-on Patriotic Turkey VintageBlack Chef Preparing Turkey On Table~thanksgiving Diner~1907+Mixed Lot 9 Early Postcard Greetings Christmas Thanksgiving Valentine Qq6302Hearty Thanksgiving Greeting Indian Pilgrim John Winsch Schmucker PostcardThanksgiving Joys Vintage Black Americana Postcard Embossed Ca. 1910Girl Holding Black Cat Sitting On Carved Pumpkin~tom Turkey~thanksgiving~1907+Boy Chef W/ Knife Standing On Tom Turkley~wishbone & Fruit~thanksgiving~19121911 Postcard Thanksgiving Greetings Turkey On Vine Of Leaves, Pumpkin,haystackBoy Holding Pumpkin W/ Falling Leaves~thanksgiving~1913Lot Of 10 Vintage Thanksgiving Postcards Turkeys-ooo822"who Said Thanksgiving?" Vintage Black Americana Postcard Ca. 19081910 Patriotic Postcard Thanksgiving Greetings Turkey With Top HatTom Turkey W/ Cut Glass Bowl Of Punch & Pumpkin Pie~happy Thanksgiving~1907Stecher Patriotic Thanksgiving Pumpkin Fruit Oak Leaves Acorns Series 253 DThanksgiving~turkeys & Chickens In Barnyard~farm House~giant Cornstalks~embossEllen H Clapsaddle~country Farm Boy Feeds Fat Thanksgiving Turkey~red Back~embosPilgrim Woman Holding Plum Pudding~turkey~pumpkin~thanksgiving Greetings~1907+Thanksgiving - Rare Vintage Postcard By Gibson Art Co. Cinc. Turkey Day25 Older Thanksgiving Postcard LotVintage Thanksgiving Postcard Black Americana, German-printed Gold Foil, GlitterTurkey & Barn Scene On Huge Colored Leaf By Gypsum Weed-1909 Thanksgiving PcTurkey With Field Of Pumpkins On Huge Colored Leaf By Acorns-old Thanksgiving PcTurkeys & Corn Shocks Above Country Road Scene-old Thanksgiving Pc-series No. 8Wishbone With Big Ear Of Corn & Turkey-old Thanksgiving Pc - Ser. T.f.611Happy Thanksgiving Embossed Grapes Apples Pumpkins Int'l Art Unused Vintage1908 Thanksgiving Postcard Turkey & Vegetables Postmarked 1908 Brockton, Mass. Beautifully Embossed "thanksgiving Greetings",pilgrim, Turkey & Lilies Of ValleyThanksgiving Greetings "home Day" Artist Signed PostcardThanksgiving~cupid~red Silk Flag Banner~turkey~axe In Stump~gold Glossy~embossPatriotic Thanksgiving~turkey With Us Flag~pink Flowers~red Border~emboss~sander1910 Postcard Thanksgiving Greetings Turkey, Thanksgiving Proclamation1910 Patriotic Postcard Turkey & Banner -on This Our Thanksgiving DayOur National Birds~american Eagle & Thanksgiving Turkey~peace & Food~1906