Of the many things I have to be grateful for this Thanksgiving, never having to worry about being hungry is a big one. Oh, I don’t mean hungry as in, “it’s been 5 hours since breakfast and my stomach is growling”; I mean hungry as in “it’s been 5 days since I’ve had anything but a handful of rice to last the day.”
Working at Organic Gardening has some unique perks, and one is the plentiful supply of fresh produce from our test garden during the growing season. On those days when I volunteer to help our test garden manager, Doug Hall, with the weeding and harvesting, the vegetables always taste even sweeter. Hard work always sharpens the appetite. Now that the garden is heading into its dormant season, I miss checking out the “harvest table” every Wednesday to see what Doug has grown that week.
I have a lot of 100-year-old Thanksgiving greeting postcards in my collection, and many of them feature scenes of the harvest. People were just as grateful for their daily bread a century ago. Or even 4 centuries ago—the first Thanksgiving, celebrated jointly by the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag people (without whose agricultural advice they would have starved), was a celebration of the harvest. Often my old postcards feature somewhat fantasized turn-of-the-century interpretations of what Pilgrims and Indians would have looked like.
Here’s a harvest of Thanksgiving postcards for you to enjoy. Hope everyone has a happy, healthy Thanksgiving!
Okay, I promise this is the last corn-related posting I’ll do this year. But there’s something about corn that makes people want to photograph it. I found two more corny postcards in my collection:
Ephemera sometimes also featured corn:
Gardeners love to claim bragging rights to the biggest, earliest, tastiest veggies. But sometimes they can resort to…well, exaggerating a bit.
One man, William Harrison “Dad” Martin, made a name for himself a century ago by capitalizing on Midwestern farmers’ pride in the abundance of their crops. He produced a series of postcards that used composite negatives—the early-20th-century equivalent of Photoshop—to insert absurdly large veggies into everyday farming photos. Such postcards, called “exaggeration” or “tall-tale” postcards, are highly collectible today.
In keeping with my corn theme this month, here are three of “Dad” Martin’s fantasy images that picture enormous cobs:
Hope you all are having a very corny July!
Crazy for corn? Author Craig Summers Black gives Organic Gardening readers a corn primer in our August/September issue (plus recipes from chef George Formaro of Centro restaurant in Des Moines), and his description of Iowa’s Adel Corn Festival will appear on this site soon.
I want to share some vintage postcards of another Midwest institution: the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota. This “cathedral of corn” has had three incarnations: The first was built in 1892, when Mitchell had a population of only 3,000; the second, built in 1905, would soon prove too small; so a third (the current structure) was completed in 1921. Having survived a major fire in 1979, it will celebrate its centenary in 10 years.
The building never looks the same from year to year, as native grasses and thousands of ears of corn are applied inside and out to create elaborate mosaics and designs related to that year’s theme. The theme for 2012, which workers began applying to the walls in June, is “Saluting Youth Activities.”
In 1914, the theme was “Dutch Scenes,” as you can see from my first example:
The 1929 decorations depicted the history of the state in 10-year intervals to celebrate Mitchell’s 50th anniversary:
Shortly after this photo was taken, minarets and towers were added to recall some of the details of the earlier Corn Palace buildings.
Today, besides hosting a half-million tourists every year, the Corn Palace building serves as a venue for entertainers, local basketball games, and civic activities. And a testimony to the cultural significance of corn in American life.