Let's talk turkey with vintage Thanksgiving postcards at the Toronto Reference Library

October 7, 2012 | Bill V.

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Did you know the Toronto Reference Library has an extensive vintage postcard collection?  Not surprisingly, it's strong in geographic tourist type cards, but it also has holiday collections including Thanksgiving.  

Postcards in the early 1900s played a much bigger role than today as telephones were not widespread and they didn't have the advantage of texting, email, facebook or twitter.  Mail delivery was both faster and more reliable. In reading them you get the sense people used postcards to make plans for the next day and sometimes even the same day.

Below find a selection of postcards from the collection celebrating Thanksgiving - they're all circa 1905-1910 - some are mailed and others unused. They are chromolithographs and several are embossed so they have a slight three dimensional feel in the figures/animals.   If you're interested in talking real turkey you would likely enjoy another Library blog post on Thanksgiving cooking.


If you like early photographs / images / postcards of Toronto and Canada visit the Digital Archive which includes rare historical pictures, maps, manuscripts, ephemera and digitized books from our Special Collections for research, study and discovery.

Toronto Public Library has some of its photo/ephemera collections online at  Pinterest and Flickr as well as many of its past exhibits and displays in virtual exhibitions. Come visit us online or in person.

Turkey sympathy or admiration


Turkey being fed by kids


  Turkey basket 2 kids

Turkey riding turkey


Below find a couple of cards which maybe more accurately reflect the turkey's experience - not for the faint of heart !

Turkey carrying turkey on pole

This last card is enhanced / bedazzled with glitter which is often lost. The faint initials are likely from the person who added the glitter. 

Turkey thanksgiving greetings fork knive

You may be like me and interested in the messages written on the backs of the cards? If that's the case, then I hope you enjoy the following.

Miss Nellie Fudger of 437 Sumach Street (present day Cabbagetown) received the turkey admiration/sympathy card on November 25th 1908 from a local Toronto friend who had a bit of gossip to share.  Her card was produced by one of the most famous English postcard firms, Raphael Tuck and Sons, although the card is printed in Saxony/Germany (which was very common). 

Turkey admiration or sympathy back

The young chef riding the turkey was mailed from Ottawa to the Methodist Parsonage in Kemptville on October 9 1914.   It was also printed in Germany and has an embossed design copyrighted in 1910 by A Von Beust and the publisher/manufacturer is Sam Gabriel Co.  As often happened the stamp is missing (stamp collectors and postcard collectors are sometimes at cross purposes). 

Both these cards are divided backs - ie a space for the address on the right and message on the left. Earlier cards only had the address on the back (pre 1907 in the US) and generally the brief message would be written on the front.

Turkey child cook riding back