NOTES IN THE TURKEYS.
“This Thanksgiving has been a lucrative one so far as my collection is concerned,” said the boss faddist.
“Which of your collections do you mean?” asked the amateur.
“Why my collection of notes and messages that are found in the turkeys sent down here from the New England states. Did you ever heard of a Thanksgiving turkey coming to town from Vermont for instance, that didn’t contain tucked away inside against the white meat, either a pair of red mittens or blue yarn socks or a message directed to some ‘little waif?’ A bird without that sort of stuffing would be very rare. As I have just mentioned, most of the things are addressed to little waifs. You see up there in the some of those faraway farms where the best turkeys come from they seem to have an idea that all the grown-ups in New York are crooks; that all the children are waifs, and that Potter’s Field is the only cemetery. I discovered that when I began to make my collection of turkey notes four years ago, and tried to learn the cause. I think I have discovered it.
“About 25 or 30 years ago, when book agents were in their prime and chromos were accepted as works of art someone wrote a book and called it ‘Sunshine and Shadow of New York.’ The book agents did the rest, so far as the New England farmers were concerned. There wasn’t much sunshine in that book, but the shadows were lad on thick and black. There were pictures in it of Harry Hill’s dance hall and a lot of similar institutions, not to mention wood cuts of thieves’ dens, and several hundred pages of reading matter to the effect that there wasn’t anything else in the town except, of course, Potter’s Field. The book was strong on that particular graveyard. Well, the book agents had a gold mine it, and if you go through the New England farm districts today, especially far away from the big towns, you will find that ‘Sunshine and Shadow of New York’ still shares the honors of the centre table in nearly every Sunday room, with the family Bible, the history of the country and its leading men and ‘Pilgrims’ Progress.’ The children look at those pictures Sunday, and that’s where they get their impressions that the kids here are waifs.
“But to return to this year’s addition to my collection. Just as I had expected, most of the notes in the turkeys from Vermont had something to say about Dewey. Here’s a sample.
“To the poor little waif who has her Thanksgiving dinner off of this nice turkey: When Admiral Dewey came home he walked by our house one day and just then this very turkey got out of the barnyard and ran across the road in front of him and the admiral must have seen it. I didn’t want to have this one killed this year, but pa says a turkey’s a turkey even if times are good, so I’ll send this note.
“’Your Loving Little Friend’
“Most all of the Vermont notes said that the birds in which they were concealed had been named Dewey. In a bird from eastern Connecticut I found a pair of blue yarn knit stockings wrapped up in a paper, on which was the message, “Whoever gets them, may they keep her warm through the long winter.’ That bird was in a big lot that was just going to be sent off to a Broadway restaurant where the patrons never wear anything but open-work hosiery winter or summer. You see I got all my specimens at the markets before the turkeys are delivered to the consumers. I have explained the situation to half a dozen butchers, and they all let me search for the notes through every fresh batch of birds that comes in.
“From southwestern Rhode Island I got a good note in a turkey that had evidently been reared and killed on the outskirts of the prohibition town of Westerly. It said: ‘It is the earnest wish of the maiden lady who raised this turkey and now sends it on the way that the great city to which it is going may sometime stamp out the awful curse of rum, as we have here in our own peaceful little town.’ New York Sun.
Boston [MA] Daily Advertiser 6 December 1899: p. 8
Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: The placing of notes by piece-workers in garments or with food-stuffs was, apparently a common practice. Mrs Daffodil has previously noted it in Cora’s Christmas Doll, and in this story with a happy ending:
Novel Marriage in Minnesota.
Miss Estella May Duncan, of Mazeppa, Minn., was married in splendid style at Bellchester, Minn., a few days ago to Mr. John F. O’Connell of Woonsocket, R.I. About a year ago Mr. O’Connell purchased a dozen eggs in a Woonsocket grocery store. One of them appeared quite light and out of curiosity he opened it, only to find a dainty little note penned in rhyme suggesting a correspondence with the writer providing the finder would enjoy a little literary discussion. Mr. O’Connell promptly responded in rhyme, and a correspondence ensued that led to a courtship and a happy marriage. At the wedding dinner given at the home of George Duncan, a brother of the bride, after the ceremony, there was a handsome wedding cake, surmounted by an immense hen’s egg, bronzed. During the banquet the groom told the story of the romance and repeated the poetry addressed to Miss Duncan when he found the egg in a grocery store and also the verses which he found in the egg containing a request that the finder correspond with the writer.
Denver [CO] Rocky Mountain News 24 November 1895: p. 21
Rather than “Sunshine and Shadow of New York,” possibly the note-collecting narrator meant this book, with its “spoiler-alert” title: Lights and Shadows of New York Life or The Sights and Sensations of The Great City. A Work Descriptive of the City of New York in All its Various Phases: With Full and Graphic Accounts of Its Splendors, and Wretchedness; its High and Low Life; Its Marble Palaces and Dark Dens; Its Attractions and Dangers; Its Rings and Frauds; Its Leading Men and Politicians; Its Adventurers; Its Charities; Its Mysteries, and Its Crimes, By James D. McCabe, author of “Paris By Sunlight and Gaslight,” History of the War Between Germany and France,” “Great Fortunes,” “The Great Republic,” Etc. Etc. Illustrated with Numerous Fine Engravings of Noted Places, Life, and Scenes in New York. By subscription only and not for sale in the book stores. Residents of any State desiring a copy should address the Publishers, and an Agent will call upon them. See page 863.
You may read the book and judge its impressions of New York for yourself at this link.
Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes
You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.