I love history. It was always my favorite subject from elementary school through college, especially American history.

Although I thoroughly enjoyed researching the history of Thanksgiving, never have I encountered so many conflicting accounts. For example, a myth so ingrained in America’s collective historical conscience that we practice it faithfully today is that baked turkey was a feature of the original Thanksgiving feast.

Not so fast, Pilgrim. There are a few historians who claim that turkey was present on the table of America’s first Thanksgiving in Massachusetts in 1621 (it wasn’t actually the first Thanksgiving, a busted myth you will find as you read more, below). However, most sources I found refuted the “turkey” myth.

I’m not sure where the “turkey” historians got their information, but the vast majority of historians agree that there was no turkey on the menu at the 1621 Thanksgiving, which is also backed up by written accounts of the time by participants in the 3-day festival. “Waterfowl” is the only mention of Thanksgiving poultry on the table, such as goose and duck. The featured meat included on the main course was venison, provided by the Indian guests, who supplied five deer for the feast. So, if we want to celebrate an authentic Thanksgiving, we should forego the store-bought turkey and head out into the woods and shoot a deer, gut it, dress it, clean it, and cook it. And we should use a bow and arrow, and not the modern compound type. That would be historically accurate. Besides, the Pilgrims had no ovens to bake a turkey, so you can deep-six not only the turkey myth but the pumpkin pie myth, as well.

Another subject of conflicting accounts among historians revolves around the Native American named Squanto. Some historians contend that Squanto, who spoke English, a language he learned as a slave in Europe, came to the poor, starving Pilgrims to help them survive by teaching them Native American agriculture. Other historians report that another Native American first approached the Pilgrims and later introduced them to Squanto, who became a friend and teacher to the Pilgrims, even living amongst them and surely saving them from starvation. As to how Squanto became a slave in Spain, there appears to be no argument that he was captured (kidnapped) by British explorers twice, in 1604 and 1614, and sent to Europe, where he learned to speak English. He escaped both times and returned home to Massachusetts.

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Also, there exists a mysterious disagreement among historians as to the intended destination of the Pilgrims. Most contend that the mouth of the Hudson River (Manhattan) was their destination. Only a few sources I could find claimed that the original intended destination of the Pilgrims was Virginia. I describe the disagreement among historians as “mysterious” because I confirmed the true destination in William Bradford’s own writing in the Mayflower Compact, the original document drafted and signed by Bradford and 40 other Pilgrims, pledging their mutual support to one another and forming a communal society with each member contributing to the welfare of the community.

IN THE NAME OF GOD, AMEN. We, whose names are underwritten, the Loyal Subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord King James, by the Grace of God, of Great BritainFrance, and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith, &c. Having undertaken for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith, and the Honour of our King and Country, a Voyage to plant the first Colony in the northern Parts of Virginia;”

To have been aiming for Manhattan and wind up on Cape Cod demonstrates poor navigation skills. To have been aiming for Virginia and wind up on Cape Cod certifies nothing less than falling down drunk navigation skills. It’s as though the Mayflower’s Master’s Mate and Pilot, John Clark, wasn’t navigating at all, just pretty sure the Mayflower would wind up somewhere between Greenland and Florida, dump its human cargo wherever the ship landed and promptly return to England. As with all things, when chartering ocean transport, you get what you pay for.

Turkey and stuffing aside, the most important lesson we can learn from the Pilgrims is their failed attempt at a communistic society. It is nothing short of amazing that so many idealistic liberals embrace the idea of communism and/or socialism, despite the utter failure of the sociopolitical system wherever and whenever it has been attempted throughout history. Total ignorance of history seems to be the only explanation.

As pointed out by Powdered Wig reader wizzardly in the comments section below, the Pilgrims’ original experiment with communism was a total bust and as a result the entire group nearly starved to death within a few years. Not until they resolved to abandon their failed experiment with communism, granting each Pilgrim family a plot of land to farm on their own, did they finally prosper, producing even more crops than they needed.

William Bradford on the failed Pilgrim experiment with communism:

“The experience that was had in this commone course and condition, tried sundrie years, and that amongst godly and sober men, may well evince the vanitie of that conceite of Platos and other ancients, applauded by some of later times; -that the taking away of propertie, and bringing in communitie into a comone wealth, would make them happy and florishing; as if they were wiser then God. For this comunitie (so farr as it was) was found to breed much confusion and discontent, and retard much imployment that would have been to their benefite and comforte. For the yong-men that were most able and fitte for labour and servise did repine that they should spend their time and streingth to worke for other mens wives and children, with out any recompence. The strong, or man of parts, had no more in devission of victails and cloaths, then he that was weake and not able to doe a quarter the other could; this was thought injuestice. The aged and graver men to be ranked and equalised in labours, and victails, cloaths, etc., with the meaner and yonger sorte, thought it some indignite and disrespect unto them. And for mens wives to be commanded to doe servise for other men, as dresing their meate, washing their cloaths, etc., they deemd it a kind of slaverie, neither could many husbands well brooke it. Upon the poynte all being to have alike, and all to doe alike, they thought them selves in the like condition, and ove as good as another; and so, if it did not cut of those relations that God hath set amongest men, yet it did at least much diminish and take of the mutuall respects that should be preserved amongst them. And would have bene worse if they had been men of another condition. Let pone objecte this is mens corruption, and nothing to the course it selfe. I answer, seeing all men have this corruption in them, God in his wisdome saw another course fiter for them.”

William Bradford on the Pilgrims’ very successful conversion to capitalism:

“Whille no supply was heard of, neither knew they when they might expecte any. So they begane to thinke how they might raise as much torne [corn] as they could, and obtaine a beter crope then they had done, that they might not still thus languish in miserie. At length, after much debate of things, the Govr (with the advise of the cheefest amongest them) gave way that they should set corve [crops from labor] every man for his owne perticuler, and in that regard trust to them selves; in all other things to goe on in the generall way as before. And so assigned to every family a parcell of land, according to the proportion of their number for that end, only for present use (but made no devission for inheritance), and ranged all boys and youth under some familie. This had very good success; for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more torne was planted then other waise would have bene by any means the Govr or any other could use, and saved him a great deall of trouble, and gave farr better contente. The women now wente willingly into the feild, and tooke their litle-ons with them to set torne, which before would aledg weaknes, and inabilitie; whom to have compelled would have bene thought great tiranie and oppression.”

From History News Network

Top 10 Myths About Thanksgiving

MYTH # 1

The Pilgrims Held the First Thanksgiving

To see what the first Thanksgiving was like you have to go to: Texas. Texans claim the first Thanksgiving in America actually took place in little San Elizario, a community near El Paso, in 1598 — twenty-three years before the Pilgrims’ festival. For several years they have staged a reenactment of the event that culminated in the Thanksgiving celebration: the arrival of Spanish explorer Juan de Onate on the banks of the Rio Grande. De Onate is said to have held a big Thanksgiving festival after leading hundreds of settlers on a grueling 350-mile long trek across the Mexican desert.

Then again, you may want to go to Virginia.. At the Berkeley Plantation on the James River they claim the first Thanksgiving in America was held there on December 4th, 1619….two years before the Pilgrims’ festival….and every year since 1958 they have reenacted the event. In their view it’s not the Mayflower we should remember, it’s the Margaret, the little ship which brought 38 English settlers to the plantation in 1619. The story is that the settlers had been ordered by the London company that sponsored them to commemorate the ship’s arrival with an annual day of Thanksgiving. Hardly anybody outside Virginia has ever heard of this Thanksgiving, but in 1963 President Kennedy officially recognized the plantation’s claim.

MYTH # 2

Thanksgiving Was About Family

If by Thanksgiving, you have in mind the Pilgrim festival, forget about it being a family holiday. Put away your Norman Rockwell paintings. Turn off Bing Crosby. Thanksgiving was a multicultural community event. If it had been about family, the Pilgrims never would have invited the Indians to join them.

MYTH # 3

Thanksgiving Was About Religion

No it wasn’t. Paraphrasing the answer provided above, if Thanksgiving had been about religion, the Pilgrims never would have invited the Indians to join them. Besides, the Pilgrims would never have tolerated festivities at a true religious event. Indeed, what we think of as Thanksgiving was really a harvest festival. Actual”Thanksgivings” were religious affairs; everybody spent the day praying. Incidentally, these Pilgrim Thanksgivings occurred at different times of the year, not just in November.

MYTH # 4

The Pilgrims Ate Turkey

What did the Pilgrims eat at their Thanksgiving festival? They didn’t have corn on the cob, apples, pears, potatoes or even cranberries. No one knows if they had turkey, although they were used to eating turkey. The only food we know they had for sure was deer. 11(And they didn’t eat with a fork; they didn’t have forks back then.)

So how did we get the idea that you have turkey and cranberry and such on Thanksgiving? It was because the Victorians prepared Thanksgiving that way. And they’re the ones who made Thanksgiving a national holiday, beginning in 1863, when Abe Lincoln issued his presidential Thanksgiving proclamations…two of them: one to celebrate Thanksgiving in August, a second one in November. Before Lincoln Americans outside New England did not usually celebrate the holiday. (The Pilgrims, incidentally, didn’t become part of the holiday until late in the nineteenth century. Until then, Thanksgiving was simply a day of thanks, not a day to remember the Pilgrims.)

MYTH # 5

The Pilgrims Landed on Plymouth Rock

According to historian George Willison, who devoted his life to the subject, the story about the rock is all malarkey, a public relations stunt pulled off by townsfolk to attract attention. What Willison found out is that the Plymouth Rock legend rests entirely on the dubious testimony of Thomas Faunce, a ninety-five year old man, who told the story more than a century after the Mayflower landed. Unfortunately, not too many people ever heard how we came by the story of Plymouth Rock. Willison’s book came out at the end of World War II and Americans had more on their minds than Pilgrims then. So we’ve all just gone merrily along repeating the same old story as if it’s true when it’s not. And anyway, the Pilgrims didn’t land in Plymouth first. They first made landfall at Provincetown. Of course, the people of Plymouth stick by hoary tradition. Tour guides insist that Plymouth Rock is THE rock.

MYTH # 6

Pilgrims Lived in Log Cabins

No Pilgrim ever lived in a log cabin. The log cabin did not appear in America until late in the seventeenth century, when it was introduced by Germans and Swedes. The very term”log cabin” cannot be found in print until the 1770s. Log cabins were virtually unknown in England at the time the Pilgrims arrived in America. So what kind of dwellings did the Pilgrims inhabit? As you can see if you visit Plimoth Plantation in Massachusetts, the Pilgrims lived in wood clapboard houses made from sawed lumber.

MYTH # 7

Pilgrims Dressed in Black

Not only did they not dress in black, they did not wear those funny buckles, weird shoes, or black steeple hats. So how did we get the idea of the buckles? Plimoth Plantation historian James W. Baker explains that in the nineteenth century, when the popular image of the Pilgrims was formed, buckles served as a kind of emblem of quaintness. That’s the reason illustrators gave Santa buckles. Even the blunderbuss, with which Pilgrims are identified, was a symbol of quaintness. The blunderbuss was mainly used to control crowds. It wasn’t a hunting rifle. But it looks out of date and fits the Pilgrim stereotype.

Read more….

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