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From the Archives: Thanksgiving Memories

Thanksgiving and the Autumn season bring warm memories from Ursinus’s past.

Thanksgiving has always held a special place in the hearts of Ursinus students, faculty, and staff. There were years when classes were held on Thanksgiving Day, years when special football games were played, and even a year when the holiday was celebrated on the third Thursday instead of the fourth Thursday of November. Through it all, Thanksgiving has left us with warm Ursinus memories.

On Monday, November 26, 1917, the “The Ursinus Weekly” published a short history of Thanksgiving

“In its present form, Thanksgiving dates back to the time of the Pilgrims. In 1621, after the Pilgrim colony had gathered their first harvest and the fear of famine had finally been allayed, Governor Bradford in true Pilgrim spirit officially decreed that a special day be set aside on which to give thanks for this recognized blessing. Since then, on numerous occasions, both state and national Thanksgivings have been observed in gratitude for some special benefit. However, not until 1817 did Thanksgiving become an annual holiday and then the custom was confined to New York. Its celebration as a national holiday date back to 1863 when Abraham Lincoln set apart the last Thursday in November for its regular observance.”

In 1891, an Ursinus alum reminisced on Thanksgiving memory from twenty years earlier in an article for “College Bulletin”

A Thanksgiving Reverie

“It is Thanksgiving eve and there are many things to remind one that the season has come again. The proclamation in the papers … the heavy-laden autumn air… The cold winds, sighing about the house, the rustling leaves, a certain undefinable something in the change nature is assuming, brings to my mind tonight memories of other years.

How many Thanksgivings like this one have come and gone! To-night one among them stands out clear and fresh. Let me see. Ah me! It is two decades in the past. How fast the stream of time sweeps on! It is in the early days of Ursinus. Many young men for the first time are gathered within her walls. It seems to me I hear tonight again the sound of the wind and leaves as they sweep around the new-found college home.

The hearts of many are joyous with anticipated pleasures. A gathering of grateful people from the neighboring church is to bring thanksgiving gifts and greetings to our honored President’s home, and we are to share the joy… How joyfully the evening passes in what seems to us a great and happy surprise.

How clearly, I recall the next day’s walk to the old church and the service there.

The day is hallowed. It calls to thankfulness for the thousand memories and associations of the past, for the unnumbered blessings meeting our desires in the present: for all good things… The memories of joyous and holy things blend with the sense of present blessings to fill the soul with gratitude and love.” C.

(“The Ursinus College Bulletin”, Volume VIII, December 1891)

Memories of a colorful Autumn inspired Ursinus Professor Samuel Vernon Ruby to write a special poem devoted to Autumn in 1894.


The pretty robe that Autumn wears

Along the laughing rill,

The pretty robe that Autumn wears

Upon the sombre hill,

Will be a picture sweet to see,

As long as there is memory.


I turn now back unto those years

That did so gently glide;

I turn now back unto those years,

That with their silver tide,

Did pass in song, in love, in praise,

And think them like these Autumn days.


Oh yes! I love thee, Autumn brown!

And when the wind is free,

I think I hear thy trailing gown

In every forest tree;

And painting, painting gold and green,

Thou paint’st, indeed, the sweetest scene.”

(“The Ursinus College Bulletin”, Volume XI, December 1894)

The entire Thanksgiving Reverie article and Autumn poem can be found in the Ursinusiana Collection, Room #227, Myrin Library and on Digital Commons. https://digitalcommons.ursinus.edu

Have a safe and Happy Thanksgiving!

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Carolyn Weigel
Archives & Special Collections Librarian

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