"Thanksgiving was spent in a very becoming manner by the Wilson students," noted the editors of the Pharetra in 1887. Due to inclement weather, they spent most of the day indoors, but after attending church services in town, the editors noted that they were, "summoned to the fine dinner given to us by our kind President and his wife." Nine tables were "simply loaded down with good things and not a course was slighted by us from the august turkey to the ice-cream." After dinner the students enjoyed a concert in the chapel presented by their classmates. Although the first Thanksgiving menu in the archival collection dates from 1889, it is clear that enjoying the Thanksgiving meal at Wilson was already tradition. During the time period covered by this exhibit, students did not have classes on Thanksgiving day, but did not have scheduled vacation. When the weather permitted Wilson students competed with each other, at first in basketball, but by 1903 annual field hockey matches ruled the day.
Click on the link above to view images of Wilson College Thanksgiving menus from 1887-1921. The menus included feature lettering and artwork indicitive of their times. Menus for Thanksgiving celebrations held during the Spanish-American War 1898 and World War I used patriotic themes, symbols, and poetry to support and acknowledge war efforts. Although the foods served each year varied little, specialty items like oysters disappeared during the war years and reappeared in 1921.