Wednesday, November 23, 2022

A personal milestone

You can now nominate me, if you so choose, for the National Register of Historic Places. And unless I get plastic surgery (which is unlikely), I’m also eligible for the Mills Act. 

Yes, I turn fifty this week. 

I tried to refer to myself as middle-aged, but Steph quickly pointed out, “Only if you live to 100.”

Thanks to everyone who's been along on this ride with me so far.

Thursday, November 17, 2022

Thanksgiving, Anaheim, 1874

Thanksgiving dinner in the 1870s (F. G. Weller stereoview card)

The following item appeared in the Anaheim Gazette, Nov. 28, 1874:
"The early rains, the farming successes of the past year, the near approach of the railroad communication with Los Angeles and San Francisco, and the general indications of future prosperity in the Santa Ana valley have predisposed everyone to be literally and truly thankful. And Thanksgiving Day of the present year of our Lord was therefore kept in the good old New England style. Church in the morning, turkeys and cranberry-sauce at dinner, and the general relaxation from the cares of business, indulged in by the entire community, proved quite a change, and a pleasant one at that, from the evil days of the previous years of the present decade, when all, who thought fit to observe the day, did so with the lips and not with the heart."  
Although the roots of Thanksgiving go back to the 1600s, it was celebrated on various dates in different states. Around the early 1800s the last Thursday in November became customary. But it wasn't until 1863 -- the middle of the Civil War -- that President Lincoln made the last Thursday official. In his proclamation, he also implored "the interposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation." 

In 1870, President Ulysses S. Grant made Thanksgiving an official federal holiday. It was only after this -- in the early 1870s -- that Thanksgiving became a truly nationwide celebration and firmly ensconced in the public mind. Even then, many Southerners refused to celebrate it because they felt it was politicized and that celebrating it was a show of fealty to the federal government. The fact that both Lincoln and Grant had been key in enshrining Thanksgiving no doubt played a role in this sentiment.
The 200 block of W. Center St., Anaheim, looking east, 1870s. (Courtesy Anaheim Public Library)
Anaheim had a mix of northerners and southerners living amongst its immigrants from Germany and other nations around the world. Moreover, California had only been on the fringes during the Civil War. As such, Thanksgiving seems to have been largely welcomed locally without much fuss. 

And indeed, as the Gazette indicated, Anaheim had much to be thankful for in 1874. Their town was growing, their grapes were growing, and the weather (a constant concern of the farmer) was treating them well compared to the "evil days" of devestating drought in the 1860s. 

But the comment about the impending arrival of a rail line to Anaheim is particularly noteworthy. The Southern Pacific would begin regular service to Anaheim in January of 1875, providing a way for Anaheim vintners and farmers to sell their goods to a dramatically larger market. Later, the arrival of the Santa Fe Railroad would provide competition and push down shipping prices, allowing the local agricultural industry to truly come into its own and bring wealth and political clout to the region. On Thanksgiving 1874, Anaheim residents could see track being laid, saw their future, and were even more thankful than usual.