Brown University News Bureau

The Brown University News Bureau

1997-1998 index

Distributed November 4, 1997
Contact: Linda Mahdesian

Was it turkey or pheasant?

Lots of fowl - and five deer - were part of first Thanksgiving festivities

Facts about food from A Harvest Gathered: Food in the New World, the current exhibition at the John Carter Brown Library, shows the variety and range of food exchanges between the Old World and the New World, including a description of the first Thanksgiving.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- The earliest description of the first Thanksgiving, celebrated in 1621, mentions the Pilgrims feasting on "much fowl" but no specific reference is given to turkey. However, the feast lasted three days, during which time the Indian king Massasoit and some 90 of his men went out and killed five deer and presented them to the governor of the colony and other officials.

The above information is from Mourt's Relation: A Journal of the Pilgrims at Plymouth, originally printed in 1622. The book is among dozens of publications and illustrations from the exhibition, A Harvest Gathered: Food in the New World, on display at the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University through Jan. 10, 1998.

Here are some Thanksgiving tidbits from the exhibition:

Source: Exhibition catalog, A Harvest Gathered: Food in the New World, prepared by Daniel J. Slive, coordinator of reader and bibliographic services, John Carter Brown Library, Brown University.