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#tbt Local History Blog - WWI: Horrors of war don't diminish American gratitude on Thanksgiving Day

On November 28, 1917, World War I dominated local headlines and continued to transform the lives of local citizens.

It weighed heavily on the hearts of loved ones whose  family and friends confronted death and destruction on a daily basis an ocean away. Yet, an abiding sense of gratitude prevailed in the American homeland.

The next day, November 29, would be Thanksgiving Day.

“Feast tomorrow, loyal citizens of America!” exhorted a front page column published in the Middletown (Ohio) News Signal the day before Thanksgiving. It informed readers that the paper would not be published the following day, “this distinctive and most significant of our holidays.”

Titled “America God-Chosen,” the column encouraged  readers to be thankful for their blessings.

“...This is the most prosperous nation on the face of the earth,” it assured readers. “With us Thanksgiving is momentous and reasonable. The prodigal yield of the fields are ours and we stand first in the financial markets of the world. We have cause for Thanksgiving...Entertain a true and unreserved spirit of thanksgiving while we feed on the bounties God has given us.”

In a column titled “Thanksgiving Day,” an unknown author, perhaps an editor or a local minister, likewise encouraged readers to feel grateful for what they possessed despite the impact of war. The writer comforted the anxious by invoking faith in God :


“...There will be world peace,” it declared. “It will come through Divine Intervention. God rules this universe notwithstanding the fact that we in our arrogance think that ‘We are the people and wisdom will die with us.’ Austria and Germany must go down for their pride and outrages as have nations of old. They can not maintain militarism in opposition to the humanitarian government of the Christ…”

“...Let this Thanksgiving day mean to us more than any previous occasion. Cherish the real spirit of the day. Let us give credit to the source of our wealth and prosperity and not allow pride to shadow the face of Him Who showers us with blessings.”

In the same issue readers were asked why they feel  grateful as Thanksgiving Day approaches. In an article titled “What Many People Are Thankful For” they shared comments that were insightful, realistic, even humorous. Their gratitude is apparent. Among the respondents were:

Homer Long : “I am thankful, from a patriotic standpoint, that the Allies are co-ordinating their efforts to [chase?] the ‘Kaiser.’”

J. Stubbs :“I’m thankful I have something to be thankful for.”

A Mr. Horwitz (spelling?) of the Yale Clothing Parlour :“I am thankful for everything good that is before us.”

John Rice : “I am thankful that I did not kill myself when I went hunting.”

Perhaps a Mr. Jordon [spelling?] echoed the sentiments of fellow citizens in wartime: “I’m thankful I’m a livin’,” he said.

Articles and images from the November 1917 Middletown News Signal are available for viewing on microfilm at MidPointe Library-Middletown. Some words and images are blurred or darkened and may be difficult to read.

The images below are available courtesy of the Library of Congress: