Linton Weeks

Despite what you read in some history books — such as the Biographical Dictionary of Congressional Women — Rep.

Time was in America that stores routinely closed on Thanksgiving Day. Folks sent Thanksgiving greeting cards, people donned odd costumes and schools and communities staged elaborate parades and Thanksgiving pageants in which Native Americans and Pilgrims gathered together and smiled and waved.

"This is indeed," the Adams Sentinel in Gettysburg, Pa., proclaimed on Feb. 24, 1830, "the age of improvement."

The proclamation was part of a story about the Moral Encyclopaedia, a set of self-teaching books by a writer identified as "Charles Varle, Esq. of Baltimore."

Take a look at this photo. It's a handsome group portrait of, according to the Library of Congress, President Abraham Lincoln, flanked by Adm. David G. Farragut and Gens. William T. Sherman, George Henry Thomas, George Gordon Meade, Ulysses S. Grant, Joseph Hooker, Philip Henry Sheridan and Winfield Scott Hancock. The men look healthy, distinguished, prosperous.

There are a couple of hitches, however.

There were some mighty funny folks in 19th century America: writers Mark Twain and Ambrose Bierce, for instance. And, by some accounts, stage comedians Fanny Rice and Marshall P. Wilder.

For a while, Rice was billed as the Funniest Woman in America. And Wilder, who specialized in mother-in-law jokes, was called the Funniest Man.

When America was younger: Ladies wore hats, men sported spats and Halloween could be hard on the family buggy or wagon.

By the late 19th century, All Hallows Eve had become – all across the country — a night for playing tricks on neighbors. This was a breach of the social contract, of course, in an unsettled and unsettling country where neighbors trusted in, and depended on, neighbors for succor and survival.

Swim around enough in the oceanic photo archives of the Library of Congress and you will spot some strange things — including old doctored photos of two-headed humans and a man-monster superimposition.

But perhaps nothing as bizarre as this photo — labeled General Grant at City Point.

Look at it closely. Notice anything amiss?

The tradition of lavish, super-indulgent dinners in America, says Becky Libourel Diamond, author of the soon-to-be-published book The Thousand Dollar Dinner, comes from the fact that our country has always been known as the Land of Opportunity for Pursuers of Happiness.

Pass the champagne and caviar.

For several years now, a popular purveyor of tacos has suggested that Americans who get the munchies late at night are participating in a contemporary dining ritual called "Fourthmeal."

History can be tricky. Something that you think has never happened before has, actually, happened before. Someone who seems thoroughly modern actually lived long ago. And a quote that sounds up-to-the-nanosecond contemporary was actually uttered more than 100 years ago.

So let's see how you do: Here are seven items — six quotes and a photo. Your task is to determine whether they occurred before 1900 or after 1900. Answers are at the bottom.

1) Newspaper quote: "Dick got an idea somehow that Theo thought he was a slouch."

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