Teaching Cleveland
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Middle School Edition: 6-8

Lesson 15

Thanksgiving Day in Cleveland 1845


Through the analysis of a primary source, students will identify how Thanksgiving was celebrated in 1845 as well as identify some of the games children played during that time period.



  1. How was Thanksgiving celebrated in the 1840's? How has it changed through the years?
  2. What did children do to entertain themselves in the 1840's? What games did they play?
  3. How has childrens' entertainment changed through the years?


  1. Ask students to share with the class how they celebrate Thanksgiving? Foods? Activities?
  2. Distribute transcription of "Thanksgiving Day Letter" to students and read and discuss. What foods were prepared for the celebration? How are they the same or different than the foods we prepare for Thanksgiving today? What activities did the adults do on that day? The children? Compare and contrast with today.
  3. Distribute Handouts 1, 2, 3. Read through the games and discuss. Do you play these or variations of these games today? Would these games be played at parties today? Students can try playing some of the parlor games in class. Students can also create and take turns playing with the "cup and ball" game and "Buzzer Buttons". Groups can try solving the puzzles or try to create their own.
  4. Ask students to compare and contrast the games of the past with those of today. How are they the same? How are they different?


It is 2026. An elementary school class is studying how people in Cleveland celebrated Thanksgiving Day 30 years ago. Write a letter to the class describing how you and your family celebrated the holiday. Be certain to describe the foods you ate, the preparations, and the activities of the day.

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