This post was written by Joseph Ditta, Manuscript Reference Archivist.
Richard “Dick” Gosman (1875-1946) was born and raised on a farm in Blissville, Queens (the site is now occupied by Amtrak’s Sunnyside rail yard). Between the ages of ten and fourteen (1886-1889) he produced several handcrafted periodicals, of which his monthly People’s Paper ran the longest, from January 1887 through at least February 1888. Dick copied stories from printed journals like Harper’s Young People and Golden Days for Boys and Girls, but he also “published” original tales, local news, and funny pictures. Advertisements on the back pages of some issues hawked real stores like Ridley’s, on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, as well as Dick’s own poultry and egg business (his fourteen hens laid 1,381 eggs in one year). A regular “Household Column” carried recipes for foods such as soda biscuit and molasses candy, but one senses how the editor must have pestered his mother once too often for ideas; in the July 1887 issue he announced conclusively that “NO RECEIPTS WILL BE IN THE PEOPLE’S PAPER ANY MORE.”
That’s too bad for historians of Thanksgiving, for surely the November 1887 issue would have included a favorite holiday dish or two. Turkey was certainly on the Gosman menu. In Dick’s lead illustration for his “Thanksgiving Number,” a little girl reluctantly accompanies her grandfather — his axe at the ready — to help pick their gobbler from the farm yard. “Now,” he asks, “which turkey do you want to kill?” “None of ’em, Granpa, if I had my will,” she replies.
On the back cover, “The Night After Thanksgiving” shows someone tucked snugly into bed, perhaps in the grip of a post-feast trypthophan coma. A disinterested turkey (or is that a goose?) looks on while nightmarish figures of anthropomorphic food taunt the sleeper. At least we think that’s what’s happening. Are those pistol-wielding string beans? Dancing dinner rolls? A potato riding a bicycle? (We’d love to hear your best guesses!)