Thursday, November 21, 2013

Thanksgiving Turkeys

Does your employer give you a Thanksgiving turkey? Or maybe it happens on Christmas with a turkey or a holiday bonus? How long ago did this tradition start?

from the Saturday Morning Citizen, Beverly, Massachusetts
Saturday, November 27, 1886
Peter Hoogerzeil (1841 - 1908) was my Great Great Grandfather.  He owned an express company, with many employees, in Beverly, Massachusetts.  It was fun to find this little mention of him in a local newspaper.

My husband has worked for the same company for 30 years.  It started as a small local engineering firm, and has grown to be merged by several international companies.  When the company was small, and only in New Hampshire, the management would distribute turkeys to the employees at Christmas.  Rain or Shine. Or snow!  Here's Vincent distributing turkeys in 2007. Now his company is very large and international, so they give out turkey certificates.  It is still appreciated, and many employees donate them to food banks.

Vincent, in the snow, passing out turkeys to employees

It seems to me that today many companies and businesses are taking away from their employees on Thanksgiving, instead of rewarding them.   They make them work on the holiday, and pay them starvation wages, without bonuses or turkeys.  It reminds me of Scrooge in Dicken's A Christmas Carol.  In the end, Scrooge saw the error of his ways and rewarded his employee, Bob Cratchit, with a day off, a salary raise and a generous bonus- as well as a large prize winning fowl from the poulterer around the corner.  That story was written in 1843.

Do you have any evidence of your ancestors' generosity to employees, or their receiving gratitude from their employers in years past? Does this tradition still continue today?  The media today is full of reports of companies taking the holiday away from their employees, and one company even asked for donated cans to feed their their employees, instead of giving a gift to their employees themselves  [Company shall remain nameless here].

Remember that even Scrooge gave Cratchit a turkey, and let him take the holiday off to be with his family.

Library of Congress image (b&w film copy neg.) cph 3b18267
22 November 1912, men walking home from work after a company raffle with their Thanksgiving turkeys

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Copyright (c) 2013, Heather Wilkinson Rojo


  1. Wonderful article! Thanks and hopefully this idea will spread some cheer and motivate some as the days of sharing the wealth are far and few now! Is the company still in Beverly?

    1. "Hoogerzeil Express" used to be located in a set of barns behind his house on Bartlett Street. I should have included something about "The Shoe". Three out of four of my grandparents worked there, and they were treated very well at Thanksgiving, too.

  2. Great photos of the lottery winners (which were NOT the turkeys themselves). If you notice the turkey to the right, he is holding his head up and so they are carrying home by their legs live turkeys.

  3. My mom just emailed me that Hoogerzeil Express became Trowt Moving Company. I found their website Trowt has been around since 1917. They moved us from Beverly to Holden in 1969, and they are still doing business!

  4. Great historical perspective on a continuing issue. One of my grandfathers worked at The Shoe and the other one made shoes in Manchester & Concord, NH as well as Beverly. Happy Turkey Day, Heather to you and yours!