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Forgotten History Thanksgiving Maine

Vestryman Fred French impressed 16 dinner guests with a classic 1878 Thanksgiving feast. Maine's Thanksgiving history is brimming with stories.

Fred French, a vestryman at St. John's Episcopal Church in Bangor, was known for his impressive Thanksgiving Day feasts. In a 1934 article, the meal was described as a classic 1878 feast, featuring oyster soup, a mammoth turkey, boiled fowl, an English roast of beef, and various vegetables. The guests were served unlimited champagne and stronger drinks, followed by an array of pies, candies, and coffee. Maine's Thanksgiving history is filled with stories of both lavish meals and Great Depression famines. Today, dining out or attending a soup kitchen dinner is as common as preparing a meal at home. David Crouse, a historian and researcher from Bangor, recalls his modest Thanksgiving celebrations in the 1940s and '50s. His family would travel to his grandparents' home for a simple meal, and he remembers his mother's homemade apple pie. Crouse emphasizes the pressure people feel to make Thanksgiving more expensive. Thanksgiving has a rich history in Maine, with connections to the first American Thanksgiving observance and the establishment of a legal holiday by President Abraham Lincoln. The holiday also provides an opportunity for culinary researchers to compare the cost of earlier meals with today's prices. In 1940, a full Thanksgiving dinner at Bangor's Brass Rail restaurant cost only 50 cents, while in 1980, the Red Lion's traditional dinner cost $6.95. Today, dining out on Thanksgiving can run anywhere from $25 to $50. Cooking your own dinner is surprisingly cheap, with a supermarket chain offering a Thanksgiving dinner for eight for less than $20 in 2017. Mary Ellingwood Andrews, a retired real estate broker, recalls the holiday feasts of her youth in 1940s Winterport, where a chicken from their hen house was prepared, and pies were baked in a cast iron wood stove. She emphasizes the importance of preserving family Thanksgiving stories and the tradition of giving thanks for the year's harvest. Today, quiet time shared with families is almost lost, with members scurrying in different directions, commitments, and interests.

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