That wonderful day is coming when family is around, turkey is on the table and football is on the TV – Thanksgiving day. Thanksgiving was not always celebrated on the 4th Thursday in November nor were the main foods always turkey, sweet potatoes and green bean casserole.

The first US Thanksgiving was held between September 21 and November 11, 1621 in Massachusetts by 50 Plymouth Pilgrims and 90 Wampanoag neighbors. The meal consisted of seafood: cod, eel, clams and lobster; and fowl: wild turkey, goose, duck, crane, swan, partridge and eagles. There was pumpkin, peas, beans, onions, radishes and carrots with plums and grapes for fruit. After this first Thanksgiving, the holiday was held fairly randomly. It was used to celebrate a good harvest or making it though the winter. It wasn’t until President Franklin Roosevelt signed a bill on November 26, 1941 that Thanksgiving was established as the fourth Thursday in November.

Davenport has its own unique Thanksgiving tradition – the Turkey Note. A Turkey Note is a simple 2, 3 or 4 line rhyme that is wrapped in a tissue paper, tied at both ends and given to friends and family. Turkey notes go like this:

Turkey Brown

Turkey Baste

Turkey dinners

Go to waist

If you went to grade school in Davenport, it’s likely you’ve written a few Turkey Notes yourself. What was your favorite? Or try your hand at writing a new one, whether you’ve written one before or not – they’re fun! Get in the holiday spirit and share it in the comments!

You can find out more about Turkey Notes and other unique aspects of Davenport history in the Richardson Sloane Special Collections Department located in the lower level of the Main library.

One Thought on “Thanksgiving Traditions and Turkey Notes

  1. Isabelle McNamara Olson on November 20, 2010 at 12:29 pm said:

    As a child and young adult, we always had Turkey Notes at our Thanksgiving Dinners. The first ones I remeber were at my grandparents home. Then later, at my parents home. I started doing it too, when my own children were young. I actully had a document full of ideas for the notes on my computer… My computer died and I am in the process of the re-eriting them for my grandchildren.
    I grew up in Davenport, IA. and lived most of my life there. I now live in Iowa City, IA

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