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Thanksgiving in San Antonio

November 19, 2012

Thanksgiving as a community-wide observance began in San Antonio at the end of the Civil War. Each year the president and governor would issue proclamations calling for a day of thanksgiving.   In the first few decades, Thanksgiving activities were limited to church worship services and a large family meal at home.   Thanksgiving football began in the late 1890s, and in 1905 the I.G. & N. Railroad ran an excursion train to the game at the University in Austin.

By 1911, Thanksgiving had evolved into a holiday with traditions much like today.   The San Antonio Express on November 30th of that year provides a description:

“….There are many phases to the celebration of Thanksgiving, the great American holiday, in San Antonio.  Elaborate feasts and entertainments in private homes of the wealthy and in the big hotels, the beautiful church services, the dances and musicals, even the charming house hospitalities for intimate friends, these are only a few of the manifestations of the day common to the observance of the autumn holiday.  Through the activities of large charitable organizations, the hard work of private individuals, the generosity of wealthy people, Thanksgiving reaches the homes and hearts of hundreds of unfortunate persons….”

Special Collections holds photographs from the San Antonio Express-News Collection (MS 360) and San Antonio Light Collection (MS 359) that document the holiday as celebrated in San Antonio from the late 1920s to the 1990s.  These are a few examples.

Mrs. John H. Wood shops for a Thanksgiving turkey on Haymarket Plaza, 1941. (MS 359: L-2856-B)

Mrs. J. T. Wilson, Sr., holds a wild turkey that she killed for her Thanksgiving dinner, 1927. (MS 359: L-0981-C)

Mr. and Mrs. Warwick Field listen to a radio broadcast of a Thanksgiving Day football game, 1939. (MS 359: L-2308-A)

Thanksgiving play at Bowie School, 1940. (MS 359: L-2606-A)

Volunteers with the Westside Parish Coalition sort items gathered at Catholic schools for the Thanksgiving Food Drive, 1983. (MS 360: E-196-120-37)

Thanksgiving Day football game sponsored by Salvation Army Youth Services, 1991. (MS 359: L-7342-52-29)

A San Antonio resident serves Thanksgiving dinner in her home to Air Force basic trainees through Operation Home Cooking, 1991. (MS 359: L-7342-42-12)

Raul Jimenez greets guests at the annual Raul Jimenez Thanksgiving Dinner that he established for senior citizens and the less fortunate, 1991. (MS 359: L-7342-51-34)

One Comment leave one →
  1. A. Perales permalink
    November 21, 2012 11:54 pm

    I just fell in love with your blog! Special Collections has come a long way – Y’all are doing a fantastic job! Please keep up with the blog and overall work – it is very much appreciated. And, you know this is the truth – A worthy University is determined by it’s Sepcial Collections -you make me proud to be at utsa – thank you! Oh…one day utsa will have an entire building, multi-level, devoted to Special Collections! That will be a great day!

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