Photo via the Library of Congress
Before Thanksgiving became a holiday known for stuffing down food with the people you love, it looked a whole lot like Halloween. That is thanks to the Thanksgiving “ragamuffins,” children who dressed up in costume and wandered the streets in search of swag, asking passerby and shop owners, “Anything for Thanksgiving?” The practice could be found everywhere from Missouri to Los Angeles, but it was a particularly strong tradition in New York City.
“Thanksgiving masquerading has never been more universal,” said a New York Times report from 1899. “Fantastically garbed youngsters and their elders were on every corner of the city. Not a few of the maskers and mummers wore disguises that were recognized as typifying a well-known character or myth. There were Fausts, Uncle Sams, Harlequins, bandits, sailors. All had a great time. The good-humored crowd abroad was generous with pennies and nickels, and the candy stores did a land-office business.”