Well, that's the traditional date, anyway: not necessarily the correct one, and to complicate matters, they were in any case of course still using the Julian ("Old Style") rather than the Gregorian calendar, adopted in Catholic states in 1582 but introduced in Britain and its colonies only in 1752 (don't ask).
A traditional image of the arrival of the Pilgrims.
|"The First Landing of the Pilgrims, 1620"|
Only sixteen persons—six crew, 10 passengers—disembarked that day, and all were male. Historians thus reject the tradition according to which thirteen-year-old Mary Chilton was the first to do so. And the dog in the picture? Close, but no cigar. Records indicate that two representatives of the noble species—a mastiff and a spaniel—indeed made the trip aboard the "Mayflower" but were involved in the explorations of the coast only after this now-famous landing. It is by moreover by no means certain that the "Pilgrims" (who did not call themselves such; they used the term only in the generic sense of the word, for the uppercase appellation did not arise until the 1790s) landed at the site now designated as "Plymouth Rock." No contemporaneous document mentions the (or even a) rock; that derives from third-hand testimony over a century later. And indeed, no one paid much attention to the "Rock" until the eve of the Revolution, when it began a peripatetic career (more like the wanderings of the Israelites in the desert than a pilgrimage): moved around the town, divided into pieces, and eventually returned, at least in part, to the shore, and graced (?) with a late 19th-century classical architectural umbrella).
About the only thing Lucy got close to right (besides the fact of a landing on the Massachusetts shore) was the color of the clothing. As the painting shows far more clearly than the engraving, he did not depict the Pilgrims clad only in black. Probate inventories show that the Pilgrims had generous and varied wardrobes and had no objection to colored or even decorated clothing. They often favored what were called "sad" colors—meaning deep hues, and not, as a modern reader might erroneously conclude, black and gray. The men here wear shades of brown and russet, and the women, in particular, are depicted as wearing various shades of red and green.
Okay, I guess I just did begin, but I'll stop. Instead, a retrospective smorgasbord of Thanksgiving stories from around the Web.
• The usual and obligatory seasonal debunkery (not bad as a popularization) from Buzzfeed
• CNN Thanksgiving by the numbers: lots of them having to do with turkeys: how long it takes to raise, defrost and cook them, how much of one makes a good serving . . . more
-Langston Hughes (not one of his greats)
• Bad Thanksgiving advice columns
• Bad time having Bob Dylan over the Thanksgiving
-Stars' recipes (what did Marilyn Monroe make?)
-William Shatner in Deep-Fryer PSA warning (truly bizarre)
-Two (count 'em!) pieces on the turkey genome:
-Genome of your turkey
-Pass the Turkey Genome: Researchers are using genomics to breed a better Thanksgiving bird
-Why we don't eat turkey eggs
-Where your turkey comes from (map)
-Western Massachusetts Turkey Farms
-Don't Forget The Music: A Well-Seasoned Thanksgiving Soundtrack, from NPR
-White House menu
• A miscellany from the Library of Congress:
-Washington's Proclamation of October 3, 1789
-Other Thankgiving proclamations
-Vintage photos from LOC (via Mental Floss)
-Thanksgiving and football
• And of course, one could not conclude without Art Buchwald's famous attempt to explain Thanksgiving to our French friends (yes, the "Jour de Merci Donnant")
Art Buchwald, Why We Eat Turkey
This year's previous Thanksgiving stories:
• From the Vaults: Thanksgiving Retrospective (socialists, eels, eating pregnant insects, a shot and a brew, more)
• Those Darned Illegal Immigrants (the Pilgrims)
• Pardon Me! Another Thanksgiving Piece