Thanksgiving at the Fort, 1939

printed booklet with turkey on front cover

Fort Robinson served as the army’s “Remount Depot,” providing trained horses and mules for the troops. The fort’s holiday feasts were an occasion for dress uniforms and printed menus. This booklet features a three-page troop roster arranged by rank in addition to the menu—clearly intended as a memento of the occasion.

Virtually abandoned during World War I, Fort Robinson became a quartermaster remount depot in 1919, and provided horses and mules to army units.

We can only guess what the officers, soldiers, and guests talked about around the linen-draped tables on Thanksgiving Day 1938. Did they discuss the troubled state of the world? Britain and Germany had recently avoided war with the Munich Agreement. Was Prime Minister Chamberlain right in calling it “peace for our time”? Would Franco or the Republicans triumph in Spain? Would Japan conquer more of China? And would the U.S. armed forces be drawn into any of this, as they had been in 1917?

At the same time, Fort Robinson was about as far from the world’s problems as one could get. Topics such as horses, football, the latest motion picture, or distant homes and relatives may have been more appealing during the fort’s holiday feast.

We don’t have any photos of that Thanksgiving feast, but we do have photos of Fort Robinson from its Remount Depot days… and from today:

 

Horses entering the fort's receiving area. RG1517-45-47

Horses entering the fort’s receiving area. RG1517-45-47

 

horses at Fort Robinson, present day

The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission keeps horses at what is now Fort Robinson State Park. They may not be the elite horses of old, but they’re available for trail rides during the summer.

 

man on horseback, jumping barrier

Horse competition, undated. NSHS RG1517-1-4

 

men playing polo

Playing polo. Being stationed at Fort Robinson was considered a plum assignment during the Remount Depot era. RG1517-50-1

 

Post Headquarters, now the Fort Robinson History Center, present day

The former post headquarters is now the Fort Robinson History Center, operated by History Nebraska.

 

Fort Robinson doorway with sign: Through these portals pass the army's greatest horsemen.

Barracks doorway. NSHS RG1517-10-12

 

blacksmith shop at fort, present day

When the army closed the fort in 1948, it left many items in place. The old blacksmith shop looks like the farrier might only be away for a coffee break.

 

barrels of horseshoes and mule shoes, present day

Even barrels of old horseshoes and mule shoes remain.

 

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History Nebraska was founded in 1878 as the Nebraska State Historical Society by citizens who recognized Nebraska was going through great changes and they sought to record the stories of both indigenous and immigrant peoples. It was designated a state institution and began receiving funds from the legislature in 1883. Legislation in 1994 changed History Nebraska from a state institution to a state agency. The division is headed by Interim Director and CEO Jill Dolberg. They are assisted by an administrative staff responsible for financial and personnel functions, museum store services, security, and facilities maintenance for History Nebraska.
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