Urgent Museum Notice

Thanksgiving at Plymouth

Close up of Thanksgiving at Plymouth

A detailed painting portrays an idealized version of the “First Thanksgiving.” At right, austerely garbed men and women and one Native American sit at a long table as an old man leads a prayer. A woman attends small children at the left, and group of Native Americans sits nearby.

Jennie Augusta Brownscombe, Thanksgiving at Plymouth, 1925; Oil on canvas, 30 x 39 1/8 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay

Thanksgiving at Plymouth
Jennie Augusta Brownscombe

Jennie Augusta Brownscombe’s paintings of scenes from Colonial American history appealed to her contemporaries, who sought nostalgic escape from the increasing urbanization, industrialization, and immigration around them.

In Thanksgiving at Plymouth, as with other American subjects, Brownscombe strove for historical accuracy, searching out portraits, documents, and other records to ensure the details. Patrons and critics of the day viewed her version of the first Thanksgiving as true to life.

Historical records certainly affirm that the Pilgrims and Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn feast celebrating the colonists’ first successful harvest in 1621. Yet, their gathering would not have resembled Brownscombe’s portrayal—not least because she included anachronistic log cabins and Sioux headdresses. In reality, her representation of the iconic event reflected the idealized version of the story that entered the collective memory of the United States in the last quarter of the 19th century.

Artwork Details

  • Artist

    Jennie Augusta Brownscombe
  • Title

    Thanksgiving at Plymouth
  • Date

    1925
  • Medium

    Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions

    30 x 39 1/8 in.
  • Donor Credit

    Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay
  • On Display

    No