Saturday, October 5, 2019

Autumn Pumpkins

by Anita Mae Draper

With pumpkin being a quintessential component of autumn displays and holiday meals in our modern world, I searched out pumpkin images from the 19th and early 20th century to see if history felt the same. This 1892 cover of Harper's Bazar (note the spelling) shows a woman cutting up a large pumpkin-like squash that we can guess will be used for pumpkin pie, pudding, and other baking. According to The Fire Lands Pioneer, Norwalk, Ohio, 1862, pumpkins were also boiled down to a syrup and used as a sweetener.

Harper's Bazar Thanksgiving, 1892. Library of Congress, Public Domain
For contrast, look at the similarity in this 1939 photograph where a man working in a Texas bakery is cutting up the same type of pumpkin. The genders are different, but the pose of their hands are almost identical. 

Cutting up pumpkin for pies. Bakery, San Angelo, Texas, Nov 1939. Library of Congress, Public Domain
Pumpkin size, shape and color varies depending on their use and were grown at local farms across North America, or sent to processing plants to be canned, as they are today. 

Miscellaneous products, Edmonton, Alberta, 1921. Glenbow Archives, Public Domain
Trethewey Farm in Toronto was a 600 acre Model Farm with greenhouses and canning facilities that produced products from field to market. This next Wikipedia image from the Toronto Public Library shows a girl carrying a pumpkin from Trethewey Farm, yet doesn't explain if she's a worker or happy buyer.

Girl with pumpkin from Tretheway Farm, Toronto, Canada, 1909. Source: Toronto Public Library/Wikipedia (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license)
This glass lantern slide from the McCord Museum shows that the frost has decimated the pumpkin leaves and stems leaving a black, prickly mess, but this young lad doesn't mind as it only makes the pumpkins sweeter and hastens their ripening process.

Boy with pumpkin, about 1925, McCord Museum, Montreal
The fertile Yakima Valley in Washington state has long shown the abundance of its fruit and vegetable crops including pumpkins that required 2 men to carry from field to wagon in this 1904 stereograph.

Gathering in the pumpkins in the Yakima Valley, Washington, c1904. Library of Congress Public Domain
Many local fall fairs still have categories to see who can grow the largest vegetables including pumpkins and squash. 

William Warnock and Daughters with Giant Squash, Iron Bridge, circa 1930. Huron Shores Museum Public Domain
Pumpkins are abundant and never wasted. The ones that aren't attractive enough for home cooks and autumn displays, or shipped off for processing, are left in the fields for cattle fodder, or stored away for winter feed where they provide protein and energy to cattle, goats, and livestock. 

With the Canadian Thanksgiving held on the 2nd Monday in October, I'll leave you with this happy greeting...

Hearty Thanksgiving Greeting, 1910. Public Domain


Anita Mae Draper lives on the Canadian prairies where she uses her experience and love of history to enhance her stories of yesteryear's romance with realism and faith. Readers can enrich their story experience with visual references by checking Anita's Pinterest boards. All links available on her website at


  1. Thanks for the evidence that pumpkins and fall have been companions for a long time!

  2. I love fall and decorating with pumpkins both real and fake, but I don't particularly like to eat pumpkin. Pumpkin Spice Cake and Pumpkin Bread are about the two things made with pumpkin I'll eat. My grandmother cleaned out the pulp and we carved pumpkins for Halloween when I was young. That was fun. Thanks for an interesting article.

  3. LOL Connie, I would have a lot more evidence if I'd shown historic art and drawings, but I really like showing the late 1800 and early 1900 period when photography was blooming and paper products were coming to life with color.
    Thanks for stopping by. :)

  4. Martha, although I've never had Pumpkin Spice Cake, I love Pumpkin Pie, bread, muffins, cookies, and just about anything else you can make with pumpkin. I interchange pumpkin with winter squash in most of my recipes which can add unique flavors to cookies and quick breads.
    Up here on the Canadian prairies, pumpkins cleaned out for Thanksgiving meals (2nd weekend in Oct) don't last until Halloween as they shrivel and mold over the 2-3 wks in between.
    So if we carve them out for the 31st, we'll freeze for later or use it right away and get a start on our Christmas baking.
    Appreciate you stopping by. :)