The history of Thanksgiving began in 1621, when Pilgrims celebrated a successful harvest with a feast, inviting 91 Indians who had helped the Pilgrims survive their first year.
The celebration lasted three days while the feast offered lobsters, clams, bass, corn, green vegetables and dried fruits, as well as “great store of Wild turkeys.”
Thanksgiving spread through the new country very fast and in 1777 all 13 colonies celebrated a day of Thanksgiving.
George Washington proclaimed a National Day of Thanksgiving on the last Thursday in November in 1789, in honor of the new United States Constitution.
On October 3rd, 1863, Lincoln issued a Thanksgiving Proclamation and Thanksgiving became a national holiday. Since then, Thanksgiving had been traditionally celebrated on the final Thursday in November until 1939.
10 years after the Great Depression, the US economy still looked bleak. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt proclaimed that Thanksgiving would not be celebrated on the last Thursday of that November but rather a week earlier.
Roosevelt’s decision was influenced by retailers who begged him to move Thanksgiving up a week in order to increase the shopping days before Christmas.
In 1939, the fourth Thursday was set to fall late, on November 30th and Franklin D. Roosevelt departed from tradition, declaring November 23rd as Thanksgiving Day.
Roosevelt thought that moving Thanksgiving a week earlier wouldn’t cause any controversies but he was wrong.
Many politicians questioned Roosevelt’s decision. They thought that changing the holiday just to please the retailers was not acceptable.
Many events, such as football games or school vacations, had to be rescheduled because of Roosevelt’s decision and that caused a lot of confusion.
Many governors did not agree with Roosevelt’s decision to change the date and thus refused to follow him.
Atlantic City mayor Thomas Taggart derogatorily called November 23rd “Franksgiving” and said that Atlantic City would celebrate the earlier date only as “Franksgiving” in honor of the President.
Retailers were pleased with Roosevelt decision and most states went along with the change, but 16 rebelled and kept the original date.
Republicans pounced and used the move to portray Roosevelt as a power-mad tyrant. Colorado and Texas decided to honor both dates and turned “Franksgiving” into a two-day holiday, giving people both Thursdays off.
Although his decision caused confusion and controversy, in 1940, President Franklin D. Roosevelt once again announced Thanksgiving as the second-to-last Thursday of the month.
Controversy still raged at the beginning of 1941, but at the end of that year, the Congress passed and Roosevelt signed a joint resolution declaring that Thanksgiving would occur every year on the fourth Thursday of November.