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Freaky Harvest: The Lost Ritual of Thanksgiving Maskers

Top off your meal with these creepy vintage snapshots of America's forgotten fall harvest custom.

And you thought Uncle Ernie’s marshmallow salad was an unusual Thanksgiving tradition.

Turns out, America’s beloved autumn feast looked a lot like Halloween at the turn-of-the-20th-century. Thanksgiving revelers from New York to L.A. danced through the streets in supremely strange masks and eerie cloth veils, rattling their noisemakers. Elaborate masquerade balls were held for adults, while costumed children rang doorbells begging for pennies or gum candy. The long-lost celebration was so popular, in fact, that an 1897 article from the Los Angeles Times declared Thanksgiving to be “the busiest time of the year for manufacturers of false faces.”

They were Thanksgiving Maskers, though different cities put their own spin on the party. In New York, kids donned bowler hats à la Charlie Chaplin’s The Tramp for “Ragamuffin Day.” The freaky carnival lasted through the first half of 1900s before finally fading into obscurity.

Thankfully, the Library of Congress has preserved an album of bizarrely costumed youngsters on Thanksgiving for everyone to enjoy. Scroll down for more, then head to NPR for Richard Week’s revealing history behind the forgotten tradition.

thanksgiving maskers
  • Photo Credit: Library of Congress Bain Collection
thanksgiving maskers
  • Photo Credit: Library of Congress Bain Collection
thanksgiving maskers
  • Photo Credit: Library of Congress Bain Collection
thanksgiving maskers
  • Photo Credit: Library of Congress Bain Collection
thanksgiving maskers
  • Photo Credit: Library of Congress Bain Collection
thanksgiving maskers
  • Photo Credit: Library of Congress Bain Collection
thanksgiving maskers
  • Photo Credit: Library of Congress Bain Collection
thanksgiving maskers
  • Photo Credit: Library of Congress Bain Collection
thanksgiving maskers
  • Photo Credit: Library of Congress Bain Collection
Created on 26 Nov 2014

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