“Milk Fed Turkeys for Sale” Thanksgiving 1921-1940

11.24.2022 Thanksgiving Special

Last November the Reminisce column focused on local events taking place around the Thanksgiving holiday between the years of 1898 to 1920. At that time, domesticated birds were shipped in from southern Minnesota, but by the mid-1920s the domesticated birds were being raised in Itasca County.

For the numerous farm households of the area, Thanksgiving also signified the end of the fall harvest and beginning of the cold and snowy months. Everything that could be canned was, and the root cellar contained any vegetables and fruits which would survive the elements in a banked shelter.

The following snippets are gathered from newspaper articles and advertisements published in local papers from 1921-1940.


The communities of Deer River and Grand Rapids were growing, as were the number of grocery stores. These are two unique ways proprietors enticed shoppers to make purchases. The first is an advertisement that was done jointly by fifteen businesses in Grand Rapids. A prize of two dollars was awarded to the first correct set of answers reaching the Herald Review office. The second prize of one dollar, aimed at readers living outside Grand Rapids, was awarded for the most attractively arranged and correct answers received by a specified date.

Items for Your Thanksgiving Table! What Will They be? ~ Grand Rapids Herald Review 11-19-1924

“Remember ‘way back when as youngsters you used to wonder ‘what all’ was going to be on that Thanksgiving Dinner table? Perhaps even now, you’re anticipating sitting down to a Thanksgiving dinner that will include every item that Mother or Grandmother never forgot!

What do you hope or think those food items will be?  The answers set in ‘shuffled’ type appear at the top of each advertisement on this page [see collage]. Can you figure out what they are by rearranging the letters so that they form the name of some part of the complete Thanksgiving Dinner? Write your answers on a separate sheet of paper, giving the corresponding advertisement with each item named.”

[1] TRSIFU                                        

[2] TSEWE SOOAETTP                   

[3] SNTU                                           

[4] EEYLCR                                      

[5] EPKPPMNUII                             

[6] KCNCIEH UPOS                                                

[7] RLEAY CKEA                            

[8] EANIRRREBSC                          

[9] YUTEKR                                     

[11] EOSLVI                                     

[10] LPMUDGNDUIP                      

[12] RDABE                                      

[13] CILSEPK                                   

[14] DCISEAN                                  


NOTE: The answers will be available on my blog: chrismarcottewrites.com on Thursday November 24th.

FREE Thanksgiving Turkey Passard’s Market – Deer River ~ Itasca News 11-3-1927

“Beginning Friday Nov. 4th, and continuing until we lock up on Saturday evening, Nov. 19th, we will give each customer a coupon for every 25-cent cash purchase or for every similar amount paid on account.

Every coupon gives you a chance to win.  Three prizes will be offered, as follows:

FIRST PRIZE  – 30-Pound Turkey

SECOND PRIZE – 12-Pound Turkey

THIRD PRIZE – 5-Pound Chicken

A coupon will also be given for every 25-cent admission ticket purchased at the Lyceum Theater between the above dates.”

Raising Turkeys

“In 1925 Mr. and Mrs. John Henrikson of Busti purchased three white turkey hens and one gobbler. The birds were evidently frightened by their surroundings as they immediately sought security in the highest trees. It was some days before they were convinced that it was safe nearer the ground. The following fall the Henriksons had a total of seventeen turkeys to market.” [On the Banks of the Bigfork 1956 page 27]

A couple years later, Mammoth Bronze turkeys for breeding were being sold by Mrs. Maude Blythe of Inger, MN. They were priced at $10 for toms and $7 for hens. The advertisement from early November also stated she had “fine, fat turkeys for your Thanksgiving dinner at prices that are right.” [Itasca News 11-3-1927]

During the next few years farmers purchased eggs and hatched them in incubators for their small flocks. This must have been considered a lucrative enterprise at the time, as Tom Erickson of Effie invested in 1,000 young turkey chicks for his flock in 1932.

The Henriksons stayed in the turkey business for at least fifteen years as Mrs. Henrikson had an advertisement for dressed (pluck and cleaned) turkeys. “Orders taken now for Milk Fed Turkeys for delivery anytime from now until November 9th. Young Hens 10-12 lbs. 24 cents/lb. Young Toms 16-20 lbs. 20 cents/lb. Will hold turkeys on which a deposit has been paid for Thanksgiving delivery.” [Progressive Times 10-17-1940]

School Activities

Thanksgiving Program Marks School Closing in Deer River ~ Itasca News 11-25-1926

“A very much enjoyed Thanksgiving program was given by the grade pupils in the school auditorium.  Every grade was represented in the program and the parts were well given.  The program follows:

1st grade Thanksgiving Greeting

2nd grade Finger play

3rd grade song ‘Over the River and Through the Woods’

4th grade dialogue ‘Thank You’

5th grade song ‘Pilgrim Maidens’

6th grade playlet ‘The Newlyweds’ Thanksgiving’ & song ‘Gobble, Gobble’

7th grade play ‘The Courtship of Myles Standish’

Recitations by Myrtle Kinder, Viola Allen, Richard Betsinger, Kathryn Wolfe, Ruby Palmer, Winifred Jones, Frances Wicklund, Margaret Venne, Albert Dezutter, and Beulah Hill.”

A Thanksgiving Dinner ~ Bigfork Times 11-28-1930

“The fourth graders wrote poems last week. The following was written by Lillian Peterson.

A Thanksgiving Dinner

Oh, we won’t be shy

I’ll have some turkey

And some pumpkin pie.

We also are thankful

That we are all here

And not in England

But in our land so dear.”

I believe the Lillian Peterson who wrote this is the daughter of John and Emma.  She was born in 1922, her middle name was Corrine, and she later married Chester Holt.


In the 1920s most people shared their holiday meal with relatives and friends who lived close. By the 1930s though, trains and busses offered discounted rates to encourage people to travel for the November holiday. Northland Greyhound ran a special in 1932 – “One way ticket price plus just 25 cents for round trip fare,” and the Great Northern Railway offered low round trip fares for two days on either side of the Thanksgiving Day.

Thanksgiving is Festal Day Here ~ Itasca News 11-26-1925

“Deer River people are observing the Thanksgiving feast in the real spirit of the day. Local housewives have been busy attempting to excel each other in the preparation of delicacies that are guaranteed to tempt the most stubborn palate.  Family reunions are being held in large numbers.  Many are entertaining friends in addition.  Others has traveled to other points as guests.  Our ‘curious reporter’ has been ‘listening in’ and picked up the following:

Mr. and Mrs. C.M. Hanson have as their guests the Henry Herreid and William Herreid families, Mrs. George Herreid, Miss Frances Unger, and Miss Georgia Redpath of International Falls.

Mr. and Mrs. Alva A. Baker are entertaining Mr. and Mrs. MJ Baker, Miss Eileen Baker, Harold Baker, and Mr. and Mrs. O.G. Larson and children.

Mr. and Mrs. W.R. Giberson are guests today of Mr. and Mrs. W.F. Becker at Grand Rapids.

Mr. and Mrs. William Scott are eating turkey at the home of the latter’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Gust Gustafson, near Bigfork.

At the O.H. Sweum home, guests include Mr. and Mrs. Hans Sweum, the Arnold Wright family, and Mr. and Mrs. P.K. Vickjord.

Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Hannula and family drove to Floodwood this morning to share the Thanksgiving feast at the August Wuotila home.”

I hope you have a chance to share memories, laughter, and hugs with those you love over the Thanksgiving Holiday!

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