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Horace Vose and the White House Holiday Turkeys

Horace Vose and the White House Holiday Turkeys

"Poultry King" Horace Vose supplies the White House with Holiday Turkeys

Horace Vose (1840-1913) the "Poultry King" from Westerly on Rhode Island's southwestern shore, was a national figure in the late 19th and early 20th century, known as the man who annually provided the finest turkeys in the land for the first families' Thanksgiving and Christmas table. Vose began raising turkeys with his uncle in the mid-1850s and in 1873 sent a splendid Meleagris gallopavo to President Ulysses S. Grant, beginning a tradition that would last for over four decades as presidents, their families and guests enjoyed Vose's Thanksgiving and Christmas largess.

After looking over the best flocks in Rhode Island and Connecticut, Vose, a major poultry supplier to the New York market, selected the presidential bird with great care. Vose's chosen turkeys never weighed fewer than 30 pounds and sometimes topped the scales at 50 pounds.

Vose always slaughtered and dressed the birds and then shipped them express in a box addressed to the president at the White House. Occasionally Vose had competition. In 1913, former congressman South Trimble of Kentucky, then Clerk of the House of Representatives, sent a turkey to President Wilson; Trimble's turkey weighed 30 pounds in contrast to Vose's 37, but Trimble claimed his bird, which had been fed a diet that included red peppers, was much more flavorsome. It is not known which bird won the "honor" of gracing the Wilson table that Thanksgiving Day.

Primary Document Source (New-York Tribune, November 23, 1902)

Theodore Roosevelt Collection, Harvard College Library