Nov
22

Take a trot through our collections for all things turkey

Don’t talk about politics during Thanksgiving dinner! Amaze your friends and confound your enemies with more turkey-related trivia than you ever thought you wanted to know. Remember, we have millions of objects in our collections—be grateful we didn’t keep going.

 

Page showing roasted turkey

From American homes and gardens, volume 8, 1911. Courtesy Smithsonian Libraries.

“Probably no genus of birds in the American avifauna has received the amount of attention that has been bestowed upon the turkeys…there has been no cessation of verbal narratives, casual notices, and appearance of elegant literature relating to the members of this group…a wild turkey is a very large and unusually handsome bird, commanding the attention of anyone who sees it.”

Photo of Turkeys

Image via The Wild Turkey and its Hunting, Chapter 3, by Edward A. McIlhenny. (Courtesy Smithsonian Institution Libraries

This excerpt is from the 1914 book The Wild Turkey and its Hunting, Chapter 3, by Edward A. McIlhenny. Thanks to the Biodiversity Heritage Library you can read this book online, just click the above photo. It was digitized from a copy in the Smithsonian Libraries collection.

Following is a selection of additional artifacts and images from the Smithsonian that in some way direct attention to Meleagris gallopavo, the wild/domestic turkey. Click the links in the header for more information.

National Postal Museum

Postage stamp

One aim of this 3-cent 1956 postage stamp showing a wild turkey in flight in a forest was to emphasize the importance of wildlife conservation in America. (Courtesy National Postal Museum)

National Museum of the American Indian

seated woman with feathre scarf

Seated photographic portrait of Theodora Octavia Dennis Cook, wife of Chief George Major Cook, wearing a woven feather neck ornament of wild turkey feathers, wild goose, and shellduck. Photograph taken in 1919 at Pamunkey Reservation; King William County; Va. Courtesy National Museum of the American Indian

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Woodcut of turkey

The Marchbanks Calendar November, not dated, by Harry Cimino. Color woodcut. Courtesy Smithsonian American Art Museum

National Museum of Natural History

mummified turkey

Mummified turkey collected in 1905 at the head of an ancient cave on the Tularosa River, near Catron Reserve, New Mexico. Courtesy National Museum of Natural History, Division of Birds.

Renwick Gallery, Smithsonian American Art Museum

plate with painted turkey

Dinner Platter (Hayes service), 1880, porcelain, made by Haviland & Co., Limoges, France. Courtesy Renwick Gallery, Smithsonian American Art Museum.

National Museum of American History, Lemelson Center

drawing of turkey trusser

Patent drawing for the Hok-Lok, a Poultry Trussing Device by Henry J. Volk, inventor of the pop-up timer. Courtesy National Museum of American History, Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation.

Smithsonian Folkways Recordings

Album cover

Gaylax, Va., Old Fiddler’s Convention album, 1964, “Turkey in the Straw.” Courtesy Smithsonian Folkways Recordings

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Painting of farmyeard

“Farmyard in the Snow, the Miller Place, Brookhaven, Long Island,” by James Preston, ca. 1920-1930, oil on canvas. Courtesy Smithsonian American Art Museum

National Air and Space Museum

People holding turkeys in bags

Employees of the Northwestern Aeronautical Corporation in St. Paul, Minn, are shown holding holiday bagged turkeys given to them by the corporation in this 1945 photograph. Courtesy National Air and Space Museum.

National Museum of Natural History

feathered headdress

Kiowa headdress made with black bristles from a turkey beard. Collected at a Kiowa And Comanche Reservation, Oklahoma / Indian Territory, May 1892. Courtesy National Museum of Natural History

National Museum of American History, Archives Center

Large family gathering

Conway Family dinner Washington, D.C., Nov. 23, 1950. Family group seated and standing around dinner table laid with turkey and ham. Courtesy National Museum of American History, Archives Center, Scurlock Studio Records photograph, ca. 1905-1994.

National Museum of Natural History, Encyclopedia of Life

Barcode

Barcode data: Wild turkey “Meleagris gallopavo.” This image is a representative DNA barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for the species “Meleagris gallopavo.” Courtesy National Museum of Natural History, Enclyclopedia of Life.

Smithsonian Institution Archives

Turkeys on snowy road

Photograph of wild turkeys in snow on the grounds of the National Zoological Park, Washington, D.C., 1910. Courtesy Smithsonian Institution Archives.

National Museum of the American Indian

Pottery bird

Coiled/hand built, modeled and painted pottery turkey figure made by Lucy M. Lewis (Lucy Lewis/Lucy Martin Lewis), Acoma Pueblo, Acoma Reservation; Cibola County; New Mexico. Courtesy National Museum of the American Indian

Freer Gallery of Art

drawing of woman feeding poultry

“Turkeys,” by James McNeill Whistler, etching on paper, 1879-1880. Courtesy Freer Gallery of Art

National Air and Space Museum

Tin can with pop top

Skylab space food turkey and gravy. The food lockers and freezers aboard Skylab were stocked with a variety of canned, frozen, and dehydrated items for the three astronaut crews who occupied the space station in 1973 and 1974. Courtesy National Air and Space Museum

National Museum of American History

vinyl record

Denver Darling and his Texas Cowhands 78 RPM sound recording. Side A: Turkey In The Straw; Side B: The Devil and Mr. Hitler. Decca Records, 1942. Courtesy National Museum of American History

National Museum of Natural History

drawing of soldier shooting at turkeys

Illustration of a turkey hunt drawn by Squint Eyes, a Cheyenne artist and Plains Indian scout who drew numerous illustrations while being held prisoner at Fort Marion in Saint Augustine, Fla., from 1875-1878. Courtesy National Museum of Natural History, National Anthropological Archives

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Medal with profile of turkey

“America/Abundance” by Albert Laessle, 1934, bronze medal. Courtesy Smithsonian American Art Museum

Archives of American Art

Black and white snapshot

Photo snapshot of Lee Krasner, Stella Pollock and Jackson Pollock carving a turkey, 1950 / unidentified photographer. Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner papers, circa 1905-1984. Courtesy Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution

National Museum of the American Indian

feathered tassel

Turkey beard, purchased from Mark Tayac (Piscataway) in 2003. Courtesy National Museum of the American Indian

National Museum of American History

card showing boy with turkey and pumpkin

“A Happy Thanksgiving” postcard from the Warshaw Collection of Business Americana, 1910. National Museum of American History Archives Center.

National Museum of Natural History

eggs

Turkey eggs, collected 1984 Perry County, Penn. Courtesy National Museum of American History

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Magazine cover

Cover of Antiques Magazine Nov. 1956 featuring two 18th-century carved and gilded wood turkeys from Italy in the museum’s collection. Artist unknown. (Note: it is believed that these figures represent the ocellated turkey, “Meleagris ocellata” from the Yucatán Peninsula, and not “Meleagris gallopavo.”) Courtesy Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum


Posted: 22 November 2017
About the Author:

John Barrat is the editor of Smithsonian Science (http://smithsonianscience.org/), a web site featuring highlights of the Smithsonian Institution’s scientific research in the fields of anthropology, astrophysics, conservation biology, geology and more.

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