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100 Years Ago, Wearing Masks on Thanksgiving was the Norm

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Welcome back to Monochromes, a regular mini-series wherein Curbed delves deep into the Library of Congress's photographic annals, resurfacing with an armful of old black-and-white photos of architecture and interior design. Have a find you want to share? Hit up the tipline; we'd love to hear from you.


Today we associate Thanksgiving with turkey and many, many side dishes. But from the mid-19th to early 20th centuries, people celebrated the holiday as they did Halloween. People in cities all over the U.S. used to dress up in costumes, doff hats and masks, and make their way around their neighborhoods blowing horns, shaking rattles, and throwing confetti. Parrot and politician masks were particularly popular, and so children dressed up as Charlie Chaplin-esque beggars, and scrambled for the pennies thrown at them, that in New York the holiday became known as "Ragamuffin Day." According to an 1897 story in the Los Angeles Times, Thanksgiving was "the busiest time of the year for the manufacturers of and dealers in masks and false faces." In 1899, the New York Times observed revelers dressed as "Fausts, Filipinos, Mephistos, Boers, Uncle Sams, John Bulls, Harlequins, bandits, sailors, [and] soldiers in khaki suits." Thankfully, the Library of Congress has ample documentation:

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· Thanksgiving Maskers [Library of Congress' George Grantham Bain Collection]
· When Thanksgiving Was Weird [NPR]
· All Monochromes posts [Curbed National]