History Imagined

The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth By Jennie A. Brownscombe, 1914 The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth By Jennie A. Brownscombe, 1914

November moves along and it is time for tall black hats, turkey, and indigenous peoples in highly incorrect head dresses. In the United States we all know the drill: the Pilgrim Fathers of Plymouth invited their Wampanoag neighbors to dinner in September 1621 to give thanks for a successful harvest. From this event there evolved the American tradition of Thanksgiving now celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November annually. Like all myths, this one is comfortable, familiar and full of inaccuracy and complication. We love it—BUT there’s more.

The standard view is of a group of folks in black hats or white bonnets sitting at a long table eating corn and turkey. The invited guests, Wampanoag warriors, are either at the table or sitting on blankets on the ground. Occasionally the picture gets some historical buffing up: more accurate clothing…

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