Bizarre Vintage Photos of People Threatening Turkeys

A turkey and a woman with a gun at Nevada's Last Frontier Hotel in 1951. The Examiner's caption read, 'Pretty Joan Manning didn't have the heart to kill this turkey at the Last Frontier Village so she decided to make a pet of it and eat hamburger for Thanksgiving.' Courtesy of the USC Libraries - Los Angeles Examiner Collection.

How do you tell a story about Thanksgiving through a photograph? For the photo editors at Los Angeles' mid-20th century newspapers, the answer usually involved a turkey, a person, and some sort of a weapon. The resulting images may strike us today as bizarre and even inappropriate, given our heightened sensitivities about cruelty toward animals, but in earlier times they served as humorous vehicles for concise visual storytelling.

Now, browse through the following selections from the region's major newspaper photo archives -- the Herald-Examiner Collection at the Los Angeles Public Library, the Times Photographic Archive at the UCLA Library, or the Examiner Collection at the USC Libraries -- as well as associated collections.

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Police officers aim their revolvers at turkeys at the LAPD Revolver Club's 1931 turkey shoot in Elysian Park. This shot was staged; in the actual contest, participants shot at paper targets, not birds. Courtesy of the Herald-Examiner Collection, Los Angeles Public Library.

A woman mock-threatens a turkey with her hatchet. Courtesy of the Security Pacific National Bank Collection, Los Angeles Public Library.

A turkey confronts a woman with an axe. Courtesy of the Security Pacific National Bank Collection, Los Angeles Public Library.

Women from the Ebell and Friday Morning Clubs aim their pistols at a 1934 turkey shoot sponsored by the LAPD Revolver Club. Courtesy of the Herald-Examiner Collection, Los Angeles Public Library.

A woman holds a rifle next to two turkeys, Los Angeles police chief Roy E. Steckel, and deputy chief James E. Davis at the LAPD Revolver Club's turkey shoot contest in 1932. Courtesy of the Los Angeles Times Photographic Archive, UCLA Library. Used under a Creative Commons license.

L.A. as Subject is an association of more than 230 libraries, museums, official archives, cultural institutions, and private collectors. Hosted by the USC Libraries, L.A. as Subject is dedicated to preserving and telling the sometimes-hidden stories and histories of the Los Angeles region.

About the Author

A writer specializing in Los Angeles history, Nathan Masters serves as manager of academic events and programming communications for the USC Libraries, the host institution for L.A. as Subject.
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