Next month Americans will celebrate Thanksgiving, consuming 46 million of the 250 million turkeys raised annually in the U.S.
A century ago, there were just 3.5 million turkeys in the U.S., largely due to overhunting, habitat loss and disease.
Dr. Neil Prendergast will explain the origin of the Thanksgiving turkey at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 20, at the Waupaca Area Public Library.
Hosted by Winchester Academy, the program is free and open to the public.
Prendergast is assistant professor of history at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens POint. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Miami University and his doctoral degree from the University of Arizona.
An environmental and cultural historian, Prendergast is currently working on a book about nature and American holidays. Publication of his extensive research on raising the Thanksgiving turkey recently appeared in Environmental History.
Prendergast will present a history of both the wild and domesticated turkey, including the major role played by 19th-century farmwomen, who commonly raised turkeys and learned to use wild stock to keep their domestic flocks healthy.
In the 1890s, a devastating turkey disease divided the farmwomen from modern agribusiness and wildlife management, changing the central focus of farms.
Prendergast says that ultimately, the “professionalism of knowledge” created a split between wildlife managers who studied wild turkeys and poultry scientists who studied domestic turkeys.
According to Prendergast, the story of the Thanksgiving turkey is “a story about how gender, labor and knowledge relate. If there is a lesson, it is that what we know about nature depends a lot upon who we are and the work we do.”
Winchester Academy programs are funded through sponsors and tax-deductible donations. Prendergast’s program is sponsored by Ann and Vance Linden.
For more information about Winchester Academy and the fall 2014 series, visit winchesteracademywaupaca.org or contact Executive Director Ann Buerger Linden at 715-258-2827 or email@example.com.