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Bizarre Vintage Photos of People Threatening Turkeys

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.

A woman mock-threatens a turkey with her hatchet. Courtesy of the Security Pacific National Bank 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.

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A turkey confronts a woman with an axe. 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.
A police officer writes a turkey a ticket in this undated photo. Courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library Photograph Collection
Trotting too fast? A police officer threatens a turkey with a ticket in this undated photo. Courtesy of the Photo Collection – Los Angeles Public Library.
Officers aiming their pistols at a turkey
LAPD officers aim their pistols at two turkeys in 1931. Photo courtesy of the Herald-Examiner 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.
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.
Turkey at the Last Frontier Hotel
According to the Examiner's original caption, this turkey isn't actually being threatened. "Joan Manning didn't have the heart to kill this turkey at the Last Frontier Village," the caption reads, "so she decided to make a pet of it and eat hamburger for Thanksgiving." Photo courtesy of the Los Angeles Examiner Collection – USC Libraries.