Columbus celebrated Thanksgiving Day on Nov. 30, 1911. As it had for many years, Columbus and the nation celebrated Thanksgiving on the last Thursday of November. It would not be until well into the 20th century that the holiday was changed to the fourth Thursday of the month.

Columbus celebrated Thanksgiving Day on Nov. 30, 1911. As it had for many years, Columbus and the nation celebrated Thanksgiving on the last Thursday of November. It would not be until well into the 20th century that the holiday was changed to the fourth Thursday of the month.

In many ways, Thanksgiving Day in 1911 was similar to the holiday we celebrate in our own time. Most people gathered with family and friends and sat down to as fine a dinner as their means could afford, either at home or at a local restaurant.

In 1911, that meant a pretty fine dinner, indeed. The economic times had improved markedly since the country had experienced a modest recession or “panic” in 1907. Now most people who wanted work could find it and the factories in the Steelton district south of German Village were running day and night.

And food for Thanksgiving dinner was plentiful and cheap. A local reporter visited Central Market in the heart of downtown on the night before the holiday. He noted that a local women had exclaimed, “I have never seen so many ducks and geese offered on market in my life at such prices.”

Ducks and geese were being sold at 15 cents a pound, while turkeys were going for 23 cents a pound. Even allowing for the fact that a dollar went a little farther in 1911, those are still very low prices.

Many of the merchants at the market noted that business was better with each passing year and that most of the other items that made for a good dinner were reasonably priced as well. Oranges were going for 25 cents a dozen and grapefruit were selling for 5 cents each. Fresh cranberries were being sold for 10 cents a quart and apples were available at $1 per bushel.

While many of these comestibles are still part of our holiday menu today, there was one item that was even more popular in 1911 than it is now. The local agent for Adams Express Co. reported that in recent days, the city of Columbus had been the recipient of no less than four trainloads of fresh oysters shipped in ice.

Now, as the holiday approached, Columbus awaited the opportunity to consume 10,000 gallons of fresh oysters.

Oysters are still popular, but my guess is that they are not quite that popular.

Thanksgiving services were well attended in local churches. It was during those services that efforts were made to remember the ways in which the people of Columbus had helped those less fortunate than themselves.

In keeping with an annual custom, the school children of Columbus each contributed a penny to a fund that would provide more than 300 pairs of shoes to children who could not afford to buy their own.

More than 600 baskets of food were distributed by the Salvation Army, the Volunteers of America and the Associated Charities of Columbus. In all, more than 3,000 needy people had a holiday dinner.

Following another annual custom, three and a half tons of Thanksgiving turkeys were distributed to the employees of the Kilbourne and Jacobs Manufacturing Co.

Widows and orphans of all former employees received a turkey, as well.

There were also special activities at local institutions. The 150 children at the Franklin County Children’s Home were treated to a turkey dinner, as were the pupils at the Ohio School for the Deaf and the State School for the Blind. At the Blind School, a party was held for younger pupils in the afternoon, while the older pupils had an evening party. Pupils at the Deaf School presented a play based on the fairytale, “Puss in Boots.”

At the Ohio Penitentiary, the 1,583 inmates consumed 2,000 pounds of turkey with giblet dressing and cranberry sauce and followed the main course with mince pie, sweet potatoes, celery, apples and coffee. A local paper reported that after-dinner cigars were distributed and “all with the exception of 31 lady law-breakers let their troubles pass in smoke.”

After dinner, the owner of the local Exhibit Theatre presented “a series of up-to-date picture films.”

People who were not confined or institutionalized had other options. While many businesses and offices were closed, the restaurants and theaters all did a nice business on Thanksgiving Day. Ohio State was playing football out of town in Cincinnati, but Ohio Field on the OSU campus was not empty: Kenyon College played Carnegie Tech in a game that was well attended on a cold, clear November afternoon.

As the day was coming to an end, many people gathered in their homes and sampled either homemade desserts or something special from a local confectionery. The Busy Bee Restaurant was one of the best, and on this occasion, one could try a number of different treats: “This year the Thanksgiving Neapolitan is a blending of Bisque, Cherry and Pistachio creams and Pineapple Ice. 60 cents per quart.”

For something a bit different, “another rich and dainty Thanksgiving dessert is Meringue Shells filled with cherry ice cream, $1.50 per dozen.”

And then, for the day after Thanksgiving, one might wonder what to do with any leftover oysters.

For just such a contingency, a local paper provided a 1911 recipe for Oyster Salad:

“One quart oysters, one bunch celery cut in small pieces, one cup chopped nuts. Thoroughly heat oysters; take from fire, pour off juice, cut into small pieces; pour lemon juice over pieces and set in cool place; when thoroughly cool, mix with celery and nuts, being careful that oysters have been well-drained. Use one cup mayonnaise dressing. Garnish with red radishes or beets.”

Happy Thanksgiving.

Ed Lentz writes a history column for ThisWeek.