Pies, that staple of holiday meals, have proved highly adaptable over their long history. The original versions of the pie, which traced back to Egypt, commonly had meat fillings. The crusts were thick and carried more of the heft of the dish. Sometimes the legs of game birds were left hanging over the edge, to be used as handles. Those early-version pies were also long and thin, rather than the circular shape that sets our mouths watering today.

In America pumpkin pies and pecan pies may grace autumn feasts, peach and cherry pies may cap off summer barbecues, and the pie, in its many varieties, pops up in all sorts of places. The 35-pound game pies at the DuPont family reunion of 1950 invoke that early extravagance—American aristocrats dining in the manner of old European royalty. Yet the pie, in fruit form, shows up naturally in more quaint and rural settings. The church social. The town meeting. The boarding house. The roadside restaurant. Places that are as American as, well, apple pie.

Many of the images in this gallery are as homespun as it gets. And some of the pictures are hilarious. The cream pie is the sweet symbol of an era of vaudevillian slapstick.

Most novel deployment of a pie in a LIFE photograph? That distinction goes to Dean Martin and Peggy Lee, in the photo that closes the gallery.

Pies

Caterer William Newman brought 35-pound game pies to a DuPont family reunion in 1950. He had also served the DuPont reunion 50 years earlier.

Photo by Cornell Capa/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation

Pies

In 1938 slices of pie were served after the annual town meeting in Scituate, a coastal community in Massachusetts.

Photo by Hansel Mieth/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation

Pies

A woman prepared pies for a Methodist church dinner in Hartford, Mich., in 1947.

Photo by Wallace Kirkland/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation

Pies

Howard Johnson sampled cherry pies in his office in 1948 before they were added to the menu is his roadside restaurants.

Photo by Cornell Capa/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation

Pies

A pumpkin festival in Eureka, Ill,. in 1946 included this display.

Photo by Wallace Kirkland/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation

Pies

When Eureka held this festival, from 1939 to ’61, it was home to the Libby canning operation. Photo by Wallace Kirkland/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation

Pies

With his distinctive facial features, comedian Bob Hope remained recognizable after taking a direct hit from a cream pie in 1962, with Soupy Sales and Shirley MacLaine alongside him at a benefit performance in Los Angeles.

Photo by Allan Grant/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation.

Pies

Cream pies were part of the fun and games at USC in 1953.

Photo by Ed Clark/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation

Pies

Dean Martin and Peggy Lee posed to illustrate a lyric to their duet song You Was: “If you were to ask me who your sweet potato pie was…” in 1949.

Photo by Allan Grant/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation

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