Current Issue
April 2014 magazine cover
Subscribe

Save 81% off the newsstand price!

Keeping you current

Before Trivia Nights, Bars Had Turkey Raffles

There were lots of ways you could win the turkey at the bar. They all involved drinking

Before karaoke, spelling bees and trivia nights became nightly bar activities, New York bars used to host a different kind of fun: turkey raffles.

Turkey raffles are governed by the state now, but according to The Bowery Boys, ” in the 19th century, raffles were widely seen in saloons, a jovial excuse for men to get liquored up and throw their money in for a chance at a moderate prize.  In essence, it was gambling most fowl.”

There were lots of ways you could win the turkey. One game involved rolling dice. Another involved dumping pennies on the table to see who got the most heads up. They all involved drinking. So much drinking that many pointed to these turkey raffles as the epitome of the debaucherous male. In 1914, the New York Sun rejoiced that they were declining:

It is intensely pleasing to discover that New York has advanced so far in virtue that the anxious gardens of her morals have had leisure of late to discover the turkey raffle and fulminate against it. It has long been suspected that this form of gambling was ruining men and wrecking homes. Besides, its as always a postponed peril to turkeys that had survived all the normal hazards of Thanksgiving and Christmas.

We can only imagine what the New York Sun might have thought of bars that serve jello shots.

More from Smithsonian.com:

14 Fun Facts About Turkeys
Seven Questions for Turkey Day

Tags
About Rose Eveleth
Rose Eveleth

Rose Eveleth is a writer for Smart News and a producer/designer/ science writer/ animator based in Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Scientific American, Story Collider, TED-Ed and OnEarth.

Read more from this author |

Comment on this Story

comments powered by Disqus