Thanksgiving, as American as apple pie

Today’s post comes from National Archives Office of Strategy and Communications staff writer Rob Crotty.

Here, in short, are the documents that made Thanksgiving.

George Washington's proclamation to give thanks for the Constitution and the country (ARC Identifier 299956)

George Washington’s proclamation to give thanks for the Constitution and the country (ARC Identifier 299956)

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.

lincoln-thanksgiving-proclamation-1-l

Page one of Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Procalamation which set the holiday as the fourth Thursday in November (ARC 299960)

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.”

The House Joint Resolution Making the Last Thursday in November a Legal Holiday, Pearl Harbor had occured just over two weeks earlier (Records of the U.S. House of Representatives)

The House Joint Resolution Making the Last Thursday in November a Legal Holiday. FDR would sign this into law on December 26, just two weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor (Records of the U.S. House of Representatives)

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.

For more information, please read our related press release. Happy Thanksgiving!

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3 Responses to Thanksgiving, as American as apple pie

  1. Mom says:

    I thought you would find this interesting.

    Like

  2. Remember Pearl Harbor says:

    Seems to be a strange caption on the Joint Resolution. It says that Pearl Harbor had occurred just two weeks prior, but Pearl Harbor was Dec. 7, and the resolution was passed on October 6.

    Like

    • Rob Crotty says:

      You raise a good point! The Resolution was signed into law by FDR on December 26. We’ll make the correction. Happy Thanksgiving!

      Like

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