Photos: Thanksgiving Celebrations through SoCal History

A woman pretends to threaten a Turkey in this undated photo, presumably taken for Thanksgiving. Courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library Photograph Collection.

The Mayflower may have landed on the opposite coast, but Southern Californians have long marked the fourth Thursday in November with a Thanksgiving feast. As Southern California celebrates Thanksgiving Day 2011, join us for a look through historical images at Thanksgiving celebrations of the past and learn about some of the photographic archives that richly document our region's history.

Story Continues Below
Support KCET

CSUF Center for Oral and Public History
Based in Cal State Fullerton's Pollak Library and operating under the aegis of the university's history department, the Center for Oral and Public History preserves roughly 3,000 images in addition to its 7,500 hours of recorded oral histories. The following photograph comes from the center's Reverend F. R. Holcomb Photograph Collection. Founder of the First Methodist Episcopal Church in Fullerton, Holcomb—pictured here with his family on Thanksgiving Day, 1898—is regarded as one of the city's early pioneers.

The family of the Reverend F. R. Holcomb enjoys a Thanksgiving dinner in 1898. Courtesy of the Reverend F. R. Holcomb Photograph Collection. P146.1

Los Angeles Public Library
The Los Angeles Public Library's History Department has maintained a collection of historical images for more than sixty years. Today, the library's extensive Photograph Collection numbers in the millions. The largest part, with more than 2.2 million images, is the photographic morgue of the Los Angeles Herald Examiner and two of its predecessor newspapers: the Evening Herald and the Herald Express. The library also holds a collection of more than 250,000 historical photographs donated in 1981 by the Security Pacific National Bank, as well as a Shades of L.A. archive that showcases the diversity of the family life throughout L.A. history.

A police officer writes a turkey a ticket in this undated photo. Courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library Photograph Collection

UCLA Young Research Library
The Department of Special Collections at UCLA's Young Research Library houses the photographic morgue of L.A.'s largest daily newspaper, the Los Angeles Times. Photos from 1918 to 1990 document the changes in Los Angeles life and culture. Other image collections—many of them available through UCLA's Digital Collections website—include the photographic morgue of the Los Angeles Daily News, historical photographs of UCLA, and collections compiled by individual photographers. As the photographs below show, charity dinners for the less fortunate and others unable to spend the holiday with their families—often hosted by Hollywood celebrities—have long been a Southern California tradition.

Actor Leo Carrillo hosts a Thanksgiving dinner for Mexican-American children at La Golondrina restaurant in 1937. Courtesy of the Los Angeles Times Photographic Archive. Department of Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library, UCLA. Used under a Creative Commons license.

Thanksgiving dinner for Los Angeles orphans, hosted by the Friars Club of Beverly Hills in 1948. Courtesy of the Los Angeles Times Photographic Archive. Department of Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library, UCLA. Used under a Creative Commons license.

USC Libraries
The USC Libraries' extensive regional history holdings include several important photographic archives, including the California Historical Society Collection and the "Dick" Whittington Photography Collection. The USC Libraries also house the photographic morgue of the Los Angeles Examiner, a daily newspaper that merged with the Herald-Express in 1962. Many of the photographs from these collections, as well as images contributed by partner institutions, are publicly accessible through the USC Digital Library.

Thankgiving Day celebrants leave Claremont's Pilgrim Place missionary home dressed as Plymouth colonists. Courtesy of the Los Angeles Examiner Collection, USC Libraries.

Women clean turkeys at an Arcadia processing plant shortly before Thanksgiving 1952. Courtesy of the Los Angeles Examiner Collection, USC Libraries.

Many of the archives who contributed the above images are members of L.A. as Subject, an association of more than 230 libraries, museums, official archives, personal collections, and other institutions. 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. Our posts here will provide a view into the archives of individuals and cultural institutions whose collections inform the great narrative—in all its complex facets—of Southern California.

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.
RSS icon

Previous

Occupying Bank of America's Front Porch

Next

Giving Thanks to the Storyteller

LEAVE A COMMENT Leave Comment