Gateway Arch Gifts for Everyone!

Prowling for gift ideas for your loved ones this holiday season?  Look no further – The Arch Store at Gateway Arch National Park has got you covered. 

From kids to adults, from hobbyists to national park lovers – you’ll find a fun selection of merchandise to satisfy even the pickiest member of your family. 

Let’s see what our longtime sales associate Michelle Christian recommends in her Black Friday shopping guide video.

All of the products Michelle highlighted are available at The Arch Store on the lower level of the Arch visitor center.  You can also shop for them at our online store and have them delivered (but please order early to assure they arrive on time!).

Fans of national parks will enjoy this challenging jigsaw puzzle that features patches from each of America’s beloved parks (including our personal favorite).  Its 1,000 colorful pieces should keep puzzle addicts busy all winter.

Of course it’s never too early to get children interested in our parks.  This adorable alphabet board book will help pre-readers become familiar with many popular animals, landmarks, and scenic views from national parks.

If you have any hobbyists on your gift-giving list, they’re sure to enjoy our Gateway Arch mini building blocks set.  With more than 1,900 pieces, it’s not for the faint of heart!  Once completed, the finished product stands 14” high and more than 18” long.

As they build or puzzle, perhaps they’d like to sip coffee or cocoa from our handsome Arch by Moonlight mug.  Available in blue or black, the mug features the Arch rendered in silver foil, overlaid by a raised hand-painted landscape in the foreground. 

Children also love something special to sip from.  Wouldn’t the kid in your life love one of these zany little Gateway Arch tumblers with the matching spiral straw?  Choose from green, purple, or blue.  Makes a great stocking stuffer! 

How about giving your little readers this adorable book on the Gateway Arch?  They’ll enjoy being guided around the Arch by Archie the Squirrel.

Last but not least – how about this stunning stemless wine glass? The hand-painted design features the Gateway Arch against a colorful floral background.  Pick up one or two for that special someone.

Thanksgiving’s Complicated History

Every schoolkid will tell you about the origins of Thanksgiving.  How the Pilgrims in Massachusetts shared a late autumn feast with members of the Wampanoag nation after the colonists’ first harvest in 1621.  How the celebration became an annual tradition commemorated throughout the growing nation.  And how Thanksgiving Day was eventually declared a national holiday that Americans still honor around the family dinner table.

Sound like what you learned in school?

Uncle Sam’s Thanksgiving Dinner – Thomas Nast 1869

Well, as with so many accounts of our nation’s past, the Thanksgiving origin story is just a little more complex than that (and a lot more interesting).  And thanks to the historians at Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site, you can learn all about it this weekend. 

An annual day of thanks does indeed harken back to the very early days of our nation.  But it wasn’t observed only in Massachusetts.  In 1619, a group of English colonists celebrated a thanksgiving service and feast after their ship safely landed near Jamestown, Virginia, and they vowed to establish the tradition every year thereafter. 

Thanksgiving was celebrated sporadically in various American colonies throughout the 17th and 18th centuries.  In 1789, President George Washington issued a proclamation encouraging a nationwide day of thanks, though his declaration had more to do with a religious observance than an autumn feast.  Governors of various states gradually embraced the idea, and the observance of Thanksgiving became more widespread – until the 1850s. 

For whatever reason, the origin of Thanksgiving – and indeed the young nation – had become associated with New England, not Virginia.  So as the national divide over slavery polarized the North and the South, southerners soured on anything associated with Massachusetts.  They considered Thanksgiving a “Yankee holiday” and adorned with that region’s symbols and traditions:  Pilgrims, turkey, pumpkins, and cranberries. So rather than celebrate the annual event, many Confederate sympathizers chose to fast on Thanksgiving, not feast.

Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation – Library of Congress

When President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving a national holiday at the height of the Civil War in 1863, he was well aware of this controversy.  In his proclamation he intentionally refrained from mentioning any references to the geographic origins of the feast, instead looking at the shared holiday as a way to “heal the wounds of the nation.”

Union soldiers fighting in the war made the most of the new holiday as they paused to enjoy a special meal.  Their Confederate counterparts, however, most likely abstained.  

Today, as most Americans honor Thanksgiving with their own traditions, few probably realize the fraught history surrounding the holiday.  If you’re interested in learning more about its origins, you’re invited to a special ranger talk at 10:00 a.m. this Saturday at Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site.  Park historian Nick Sacco will share his insight on the history of Thanksgiving during the Civil War.  The lecture is free, but reservations are required.  Call (314) 842-1867 ext. 230 to sign up.

Meanwhile, warm Thanksgiving wishes from Jefferson National Parks Association!