The Thanksgiving tale involving Thomas H. Cullen has been repeated in Brooklyn for generations and amazingly, it’s a true story from the 1890s that was retold at numerous political functions for generations. 130 years ago Brooklyn celebrated Thanksgiving far differently. The highlight of the public celebration was a parade that went through much of the City of Brooklyn, heading along Bedford Avenue through Bedford Stuyvesant and Williamsburg. Thousands of spectators turned out for the event and it was a natural draw for aspiring politicians.
The surest way to present oneself to the voters as a candidate for elected was by riding in the Thanksgiving Parade mounted on a noble horse. Tom Cullen was a young Irish-American longshoreman who dreamt of leaving the sweaty docks of Red Hook by entering local politics, but as a humble dockworker living in an overcrowded tenement, he was too poor to own his own horse. Cullen longed for a horse, but his ambition was not just to ride any horse. Cullen dreamt of riding in the parade atop a noble white steed and nothing would stop Cullen from procuring the white horse of his dreams. The inconvenient truth that Cullen had never actually ridden a horse before in his life seemed unimportant, such was the ambition of this naive aspiring politician. Continue reading