U. S. Thanksgiving history from the National Archives

November 25, 2009

THE NATIONAL ARCHIVES CELEBRATES THANKSGIVING

“Thanksgiving, like Ambassadors, Cabinet officers and others Smeared with political ointment, Depends for its existence on Presidential appointment.” -Ogden Nash

Washington, DC . . . On October 3, 1789, President George Washington issued a proclamation naming Thursday, November 26, 1789, as an official holiday of “sincere and humble thanks.” The nation then celebrated its first Thanksgiving under its new Constitution. On October 3, 1863, President Lincoln made the traditional Thanksgiving celebration a nationwide holiday to be commemorated each year on the fourth Thursday of November. In the midst of a bloody Civil War, President Lincoln issued a Presidential Proclamation in which he enumerated the blessings of the American people and called upon his countrymen to “set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise.”

In 1939 President Franklin D. Roosevelt moved the holiday to the third Thursday of November to lengthen the Christmas shopping season and boost the economy, which was still recovering from the Depression. This move, which set off a national debate, was reversed in 1941 when Congress passed and President Roosevelt approved a joint house resolution establishing the fourth Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day.

The three-page engrossed Proclamation signed by Abraham Lincoln is part of Record Group 11, General Records of the United States Government; Presidential Proclamations, 1791-2000, in the custody of the National Archives. The October Proclamation (Presidential Proclamation 2373) signed by Franklin D. Roosevelt on October 31, 1939, is also part of Record Group 11 and the Presidential Proclamation series. The House Joint Resolution (H.J. Res. 41) is part of Record Group 233, Records of the U.S. House of Representatives held by the Center for Legislative
Archives.

Related images and these documents are available on the National Archives website at www.archives.gov, under “News and Events” or go directly to http://www.archives.gov/press/press-releases/2010/nr10-25.html.

IMAGES
President Richard Nixon and turkey
Turkey presentation for Thanksgiving , 11/18/1969.Nixon Presidential Materials Staff (NLNS), National Archives at College Park

President Harry Truman and turkey
Photograph of President Truman receiving a Thanksgiving turkey from members of the Poultry and Egg National Board and other representatives of the turkey industry, outside the White House. , 11/16/1949 Harry S. Truman Library (NLHST)

DOCUMENTS
George Washington’s October 3, 1789, Thanksgiving Day Proclamation, 10/03/1789. Old Military and Civil Records LICON, Textual Archives Services Division (NWCTB), National Archives

President Abraham Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Day Proclamation of October 3,
1863 (Presidential Proclamation 106). , 10/03/1863 Old Military and Civil Records LICON, Textual Archives Services Division (NWCTB), National Archives

The House Joint Resolution Making the Last Thursday in November a Legal Holiday, 12/26/41. 77th Congress, Record Group 233, Records of the U.S. House of Representatives held by the Center for Legislative Archives.

See also: “The Year We Had Two Thanksgivings” – a special online exhibit about President Roosevelt’s commemoration of this important day: http://docs.fdrlibrary.marist.edu/thanksg.html

© 2009 – 2014, Paula Stuart-Warren. All rights reserved.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.