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Indiana Thanksgiving: 1917

Indiana Thanksgiving: 1917

William Davis and family at their farm near Crothersville, Ind. View full size.

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Blessings on all of them!

The children don't like whatever or whoever is in front of them. Hopefully dinner turned out better than this picture.

Alternate explanation

They may be a dour bunch -- alternatively, look at the fellow on the right. Laughing at the situation. Dinner is waiting on the table. A quick family photo is turning into an ordeal as the photographer messes about with his equipment, the family trying to stand still, the photographer muttering to himself. Pop -- the shutter release is let go a moment before the photographer says "ok."

A touch of cheer among the scowling faces

The man on the far right is wearing clown makeup.

Despite the sour expressions

This family looks pretty good for the times.

What strikes me is how much each and every one of them looks exactly like they belong in this slice of time.

I'm trying to determine if the top left man reminds me more of Ernest T. Bass or Festus.

Did someone ruin the gravy?

They look so glum that it reminds me of a Thanksgiving my grandfather told me about, which was about 1920. His grandmother was from Alsace Lorraine and was an excellent cook. She had trained all of her daughters to cook in the style she did, which included dinners based around sumptuous roast meats with rich, brown gravy.

On this one Thanksgiving, when Grandpa was about 11, the youngest of his grandmother's daughters, Aunt Nettie, had insisted that everyone meet at her house for dinner. She had prepared a huge turkey, which had taken much longer to cook than she had estimated. While they were waiting for their dinner, Grandpa and his cousins' stomachs were growling, and the wonderful aromas from the kitchen were making their mouths water. They imagined how they were going to fill their plates, pour delicious gravy over everything and then dive into it.

But, just as Aunt Nettie told everyone to find their seats at the table, the heavenly aromas from the kitchen were interrupted by the stench of burnt flour. Soon after, they noticed that whatever was in the gravy boat did not look right. Instead of being a rich brown, it was a dull, dark, grayish-brown.

The problem was that someone had recently started marketing canned gravy. Nettie had decided that, as she was a modern woman, she should use such a modern product. She had thrown away the nice brown drippings from the turkey, which would have made delicious gravy, and presented canned gravy that tasted like burnt flour, in its place. Everyone was quite miffed with her for ruining the dinner, like that. Grandpa didn't tell me that story until more than 70 Thanksgivings later, but his eyes still showed the disappointment of a hungry little boy whose Thanksgiving dinner was spoiled by an attempt to improve on something that didn't need improving, by substituting it with something "modern".


The '20s will cheer them up!

Bad bird?

These poor folks must either be suffering from salmonella or the family is prone to intestinal distress.

Davis Family

The short woman standing behind the right most child in the picture is Cynthia Davis, and to her left is her husband William a vet of the Civil War. Their farm, of roughly 90 acres, was left to her by her father.

The short woman in the right of center in the second row is Adella Davis who was born with a hunchback. She was a very intelligent and gracious woman.

All I gotta say

is YIKES!!

Photographer's Instructions

"OK, everbody hold still. Good, just like that. Now scowl for the camera!"

Worrywart Children

First thing I noticed was how stressed and anxious all four kids seem but so do many of the adults. Not much joy in Mudville on that holiday in 1917. I think everybody needs a drink. Cheers and Happy Thanksgiving to Dave and all the Shorpy fans, I'm thankful for you.

Pass the gravy

Wow. I imagine it was not fun trying to serve dinner to this family. Don't expect any compliments and watch out for sharp elbows!

Say Cheese

Bad cheese.

The nose knows

I think one thing is for sure - the woman holding the child at left, the woman directly behind her left shoulder and the woman on the other side of the man to her left, are all related. All have the same pinched-pointy nose. The man to her left may be a brother. The older lady way up top right, is probably of the same lineage as well, since she appears to have the same nose, only fleshed out with age. And how is YOUR family photo looking?


Wow, that's one small happy family!

And an Unhappy Thanksgiving to you

What a bunch of glum faces, though the picture itself is intriguing. Does the woman in front of the man in bibs look inordinately short? Is bib overall man the hired help? Everyone else looks much spiffier. Love the detail on the skirt of the woman holding the baby.

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