Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone!

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on November 24, 2011

It’s probably a little late to go turkey-shopping for this holiday, but Nicolette Hahn Niman at The Atlantic has a neat piece on the history of the turkey, and so-called “heritage” birds that are so popular these days. I knew, of course, that turkeys were native to the Americas, but had no idea about this:

European explorers transported turkeys back to their homelands and domesticated turkeys soon became widely disseminated in Spain, Germany, France, Italy, and England. Some were eventually transported back to the colonies; the Mayflower is believed to have carried some domesticated turkeys. Early settlers commonly raised them on American farms.

From this complicated past, several varieties have emerged, although there is understandable uncertainty about their precise origins. (Note that the American Poultry Association, the official arbiter of poultry breeds, currently does not recognize the various types as distinct breeds, recognizing only turkey “varieties.”) The most successful have been the Bourbon Red, Standard Bronze, and Narragansett. The latter two are believed to descend from a strain developed in Rhode Island’s Narragansett Bay region. The line was probably a cross between turkeys brought from Europe and wild American turkeys. Narragansetts and Standard Bronze turkeys, even more so, closely resemble wild turkeys, with Narragansetts being slightly smaller with feathers lighter and grayer in color.

Neat, huh? Even the “classic” American poultry, reportedly advocated by Ben Franklin as a truer symbol of the United States than the bald eagle, is an immigrant. Heh.

Image: “Thanksgiving in camp sketched Thursday 28th 1861,” by Alfred R. Waud. Library of Congress.

6 Responses

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  1. Martin Husk said, on November 24, 2011 at 10:39 am

    Happy Thanksgiving Andy. Keep up the great work.

  2. Donald R. Shaffer said, on November 24, 2011 at 11:24 am

    Happy Thanksgiving to you too, Andy! Have a good one.


  3. Woodrowfan said, on November 25, 2011 at 4:15 pm

    according to a certain blogger who shall be nameless, a entire division of Standard Bronze turkeys fought in Confederate gray. You just have to read the records in the right frame of mind to see it.

    • Andy Hall said, on November 25, 2011 at 4:49 pm

      You’re gonna get me in a whole lotta trouble, you know that? 😉

  4. Chris said, on November 26, 2011 at 9:04 am

    Beautiful image. Thank you.

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