What It Looked Like Wednesday: How Buffalo bought a turkey in 1928

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Usually, a smart shopper can find a relatively inexpensive turkey that won’t bust the family’s bank while still allowing everyone to share in late autumn’s all-American communal meal. But before the days of shoppers’ cards and even freezers, a Thanksgiving turkey was a much more expensive proposition.

These three boys each bought their family’s bird at the Elk Street Market from Barneth Satuloff, poultry merchant on Elk Street on the Sunday before the holiday, but sales usually hit their peak on the Tuesday or Wednesday before the Thursday celebration. (Buffalo Stories archives)

Leading up to the holiday, Buffalo’s public markets “pushed Thanksgiving fowl into the limelight” with the sale of live turkeys — all to be butchered and dressed while you wait. You couldn’t buy a turkey until the few days right before, but for those days, a cacophony of gobbles filled the air around the Broadway, Chippewa and Elk markets.

While having a turkey for Thanksgiving has been the holiday’s hallmark for almost 400 years, the price hasn’t always been in everyone’s reach. In 1928, the price for a turkey at one of Buffalo’s public markets was between 50 and 55 cents a pound, which adjusted for inflation, is about $7 or $8 per pound.

thanksgiving-1928-weedco
Buffalo Stories archives

The “buxom twenty-pounder” one poultry man described to a reporter would cost as much as $140 in 2016 dollars, according to a Bureau of Labor Statistics price calculator.

It wasn’t just turkeys — meat, as a commodity, was much more expensive in general. Ducks were 30 cents a pound, chickens around 33 cents. A goose could be had for 25 cents, and the most affordable meat for your Thanksgiving table would have been rabbit at a reasonable 20 cents a pound.

The essentials for cooking the bird were on sale leading up to the big day in 1928 — Weed & Company, Buffalo’s biggest hardware and bric-a-brac store, had plenty of Thanksgiving utensils available for sale.

 

 

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Steve Cichon

Steve Cichon writes about Buffalo’s pop culture history. His stories of Buffalo's past have appeared more than 1600 times in The Buffalo News. He's a proud Buffalonian helping the world experience the city he loves. Since the earliest days of the internet, Cichon's been creating content celebrating the people, places, and ideas that make Buffalo unique and special. The 25-year veteran of Buffalo radio and television has written five books and curates The Buffalo Stories Archives-- hundreds of thousands of books, images, and audio/visual media which tell the stories of who we are in Western New York.