Thanksgiving Football Dinner from 1905

It’s a cold, gray day — a perfect time for a cup of tea with my favorite party planner, Mrs. Herbert B. Linscott.  Years ago I picked up her 1905 book, Bright Ideas for Entertaining, for a dollar, and it is one of my all-time favorite books.  The names of the entertainments are so enticing – who wouldn’t want to attend a Conundrum Tea, or a Nose and Goggle Party, or a Wedding of the Operas?  Wouldn’t you love to play the Christmas Umbrella Game, or Musicians Buried?

In Mrs. Linscott’s world, dining partners are assigned by themed favors, menus full of puns are printed up to entertain the guests between courses, and the guests come prepared to sing or recite poetry. Everyone is glad of a chance to buy carpet slippers or needlebooks, with the money going to a Sunday School or the Women’s Christian Temperance Union.  Not very realistic ideas, maybe, but pleasant to ponder.

So here is her report of a Thanksgiving Football Dinner:

While the ladies were upstairs removing their wraps, a maid came in with a tray on which were six wishbones, each having tied to it a knot of ribbon of one of the different college colors.  Of these they were to take their choice…Meanwhile the gentlemen downstairs had been presented with ribbon rosettes, and as these matched the ribbons on the wishbones they easily found the ladies whom they were to take in to dinner.

A feature of the dinner enjoyed almost as much as the feast itself was the novel form of the menus.  These were written on two opposite pages of dainty booklets, the outside covers of which were decorated with characteristic football sketches accompanied by appropriate quotations.  These were so unique and apropos to the occasion that each guest carried his home as a souvenir when he left at the end of the evening’s entertainment.

I have typed up most of the menu for you, but on only one page.

From Bright Ideas for Entertaining, 1905

From Bright Ideas for Entertaining, 1905

So the courses for the First Half would be:

  • celery, soup, and crackers
  • fish
  • turkey
  • peas, squash, potatoes, and beets
  • canvasback ducks  (I’m not sure you would know they were canvasbacks once they’d been plucked and cooked!)

For Intermission (not yet called halftime, you’ll notice):

  • lettuce salad

For the Second Half:

  • pie – mince and pumpkin
  • sponge cake and ice cream
  • fruits – grapes, oranges, pears, candied dates, raisins, and nuts
  • coffee

Mrs. Linscott’s book makes everything sound refined and amusing, but even at the time that she was suggesting this dinner, college football was controversial.  Three hundred people had died from football injuries – many of them right on the field!- during the past fifteen years.  About twenty died in 1905 alone.  Colleges were thinking of dropping football teams.  Here is an interesting article on the 1905 deaths, and parallels to opinions about football in our own time.

I do have one great football picture for you, even though it’s from about 20 years later than Mrs. Linscott’s ideal football dinner.

Football team, circa 1925.

Football team, circa 1925-30.

The player circled in white didn’t get to go to any football feasts when he was young, but he always loved the game.  He wouldn’t have begrudged those diners their feast, but he would have enjoyed showing them what “mixing it up” means, afterward. 🙂

That’s my grandpa!