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"Poultry King" Horace Vose supplied the White House with Holiday Turkeys from 1873 until his death in 1913.

Theodore Roosevelt Collection, Harvard College Library

Horace Vose (1840-1913) the Poultry King from Westerly on Rhode Islands 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 Voses 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. Voses 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 Woodrow Wilson; Trimbles turkey weighed 30 pounds in contrast to Voses 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.