Dressed for success: The tradition of Thanksgiving masking, children in drag, begging for money!

Turkey anyone? Thanksgiving maskers, in New York, taken sometime between 1910-15. Whatever you do, don’t look the ‘lady’ directly in the eye!

My new column for the Huffington Post is live, and the topic is a strange, forgotten holiday custom called Thanksgiving masking, popular among New York kids from the 1890s-1930s. Children dressed as exaggerated versions of poor people! Boys in their sisters’ clothes! I wrote about this last year at this time, but this article is newly expanded, and I’ve done a bit more research on the origins of this very odd tradition.

You can check out my story here.

There are several archive photos attached to the article as well. However, here are a few more, courtesy the Library of Congress.

All these were taken in New York between the years 1910-15 according to file captions. However the background looks quite unfamiliar. Any guesses?

I especially love these little rascals. Cute, cute, really cute, SCARY.

And finally, here’s a selection of small portraits of Thanksgiving maskers in the West Village in 1933. Courtesy New York Public Library

2 replies on “Dressed for success: The tradition of Thanksgiving masking, children in drag, begging for money!”

This is similar to a Thanksgiving tradition which was popular with chidren living in Greenpoint, and other parts of Brooklyn, during the same time period. The kids would also dress up in rags and would go door to door asking the question, “Anything f’Thanksgiving?” They would receive things like cookies, fruit and pennies. Egg throwing and socks filled with flour or cornstarch were also part of the festivities. This custom waned in the late 1930s-early 1940s, once Halloween was popularized.

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