Notes on collections at the RIHS
The phrase that leaps out at me from this broadside is “abstain from the Servile Labour of their common Callings.” As the New York Times reported on November 21, 2012, Maine, Massachusetts, and our own Rhode Island are the last three states with laws prohibiting retailers from opening on Thanksgiving Day.
In 1759, Governor Stephen Hopkins issued a proclamation that Thursday, the twenty-second of November, would be kept and observed by all inhabitants of the colony as “a Day of Public Thanksgiving.”
The observance of that day called for ministers and people of “every denomination” to assemble at their usual places of meeting for “Public Worship that they may there together adore and praise God for his goodness to Great Britain, and all her colonies.” This was to recognize the “very great success to His Britannic Majestey’s Arms in America, against the French and their Indian Allies,” and for the “reduction of their strongholds at Niagara, Ticonderoga, and Crown Point.”
In just 16 years, the colonists bowing their heads in Thanksgiving for these British victories would be marching on Quebec under Benedict Arnold, and Ticonderoga would be in American and not British hands.
253 years ago today, Rhode Islanders abstained from their Servile Labours and were “not dishonouring the Day by sordid Avarice, or sinful Vanity, but cheerfully employing their Time in praying that just Tribute of Praise and Adoration, due from every Creature to their great Creator.”
Today, we each celebrate and honor Thanksgiving in our own way. I for one am thankful to share this moment of historic resonance, and the connections this broadside makes between Rhode Island past and present.
~ Kirsten Hammerstrom, Director of Collections