Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture

Uncommon Sense—the blog

A Thanksgiving playlist from Ben Franklin’s World

· November 20th, 2018 · No Comments

by Emily Sneff

In 1750, Ben Franklin wrote to Peter Collinson about an experiment with electricity. Not the famous one — rather, an experiment “to kill a Turkey by the Electrical Strokes.” The Ben Franklin’s World team does not recommend this cooking technique (even though Ben remarked that “the Birds kill’d in this Manner eat uncommonly tender). But, we do have some recommendations of episodes from the podcast that will keep you company as you travel, cook, and celebrate this Thanksgiving!

Every modern American Thanksgiving feast begins with a trip to the grocery store. But, where did colonial Americans purchase their food, especially if they lived in early American cities? In Episode 19, Kenneth Turino talks about how men and women bought and sold food in the colonial Boston marketplace.

The week of Thanksgiving includes some of the busiest travel days of the year. But, in Episode 15, Joyce Chaplin provides some helpful perspective. However long our holiday travel may take, and whatever mode of transportation we might use, it pales in comparison to the early around-the-world voyages made by Ferdinand Magellan and others. Plus, the risk of scurvy on a trip over the river and through the woods is fairly low.

In Episode 100, host Liz Covart revealed which three historical figures she would invite to dinner and why. She picked Catherine Van Rensselaer Schuyler (and, by extension, her husband, Philip), Elkanah Watson, and, of course, Ben Franklin. Listen to the episode to hear why, and consider who you might invite to your Thanksgiving table!

Speaking of guests, an Early American “Friendsgiving” likely would have included both men and women. In Episode 94, Cassandra Good details how friendships formed in the early Republic, and what the historical sources reveal about the potential benefits and risks of friendships between men and women.

As you sit down for a meal with family, you may wonder why your family is the way it is. In Episode 114, part of the Doing History series, Karin Wulf shows that the surge in interest in genealogy is hardly new — early Americans were equally interested in genealogy! Early Americans also had blended families, and in Episode 27, Lisa Wilson explores stepfamilies in the 18th and early 19th centuries and what happened when blended families came together.

Should tensions rise as your loved ones come together, remember that family disagreements could get ugly in early America, too — even in Ben Franklin’s “world.” In Episode 175, Daniel Mark Epstein reveals the rift between Benjamin and his son William Franklin over the American Revolution.

Finally, listen to this week’s new episode of Ben Franklin’s World! In Episode 213, Rebecca Fraser explores how the Pilgrims established Plimoth Colony, and what actually happened at the “first” Thanksgiving.

Happy Thanksgiving, and thank you to everyone who listens to Ben Franklin’s World! Be sure to subscribe wherever you get your podcasts, follow us on Twitter and Facebook, and spread the word!

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