Neither snow, nor sleet, nor hail, nor driving rains, not even invasive pat-downs and body scans at the airport can keep many of us from traveling long stretches of terrain this Thanksgiving weekend to reunite with family and loved ones.
As we get ready, then, to make our final holiday plans, I prepared some historical nuggets to remind us of our rich history associated with Thanksgiving in America.
• On December 4, 1619, Captain John Woodlief and 37 other English settlers arrived on what is now Berkeley Plantation at Charles City, Virginia. During a brief religious service, they gave thanks for their safe arrival after months at sea. This is believed to have been the first Thanksgiving in the English-speaking New World. The new settlers didn’t participate in a feast
• On December 13, 1621, Plymouth Colony Governor William Bradford announced a day of feasting and prayer in thanksgiving for the harvesting of a bountiful crop and having survived a harsh winter the year before.
• Historical records show that In America, thanksgiving feasts occurred in settlements in what is now Texas, Florida, Maine, and Virginia prior to the celebration in Plymouth
• The first official Thanksgiving in Plymouth took place in the summer of 1623.
• Between 1692 and 1705, nine days of thanksgiving were approved by Virginia's legislature.
• President George Washington reserved November 26, 1789, as "A Day of Public Thanksgiving and Prayer" and as an official national celebration.
• Thanksgiving in the early 19th century was primarily popular in New England and to a lesser extent in the Mid-Atlantic States.
• Prior to President Lincoln’s proclamation, three presidents: George Washington, John Adams and James Madison issued informal proclamations of a national day of Thanksgiving.
• Even before Thanksgiving was designated a national holiday in the 19th century, the day became associated with traveling long distances to reunite with family and loved ones. In 1858, more than 10,000 New York City residents reportedly headed to New England to spend Thanksgiving with relatives.
• Beginning in 1846, Sara Joseph Hale, editor of Godey’s Magazine published editorials, encouraging governors of states and territories to make Thanksgiving a legal holiday.
• In 1863, President Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday in November as the national day of Thanksgiving. The presidential proclamation was written by Lincoln’s Secretary of State, William H. Seward.
• The Intercollegiate Football Association scheduled its first championship game (Yale vs. Princeton) on Thanksgiving Day in 1876, initiating an annual tradition that would last well over a century.
• As late as the 1880’s, the U.S. Catholic Church opposed the celebration of Thanksgiving, viewing it as a Protestant rite, while many Southerners considered it strictly a ``Yankee Day.’’
• William DeLoss Love, a Congregationalist minister and member of the Sons of the American Revolution wrote the first history of Thanksgiving in 1895: ``Fast and Thanksgiving Days of New England’’
• Well before the tradition of the Thanksgiving Day Parade, New York City became famous for its neighborhood societies, including the Gilhooley Musketeers, the Original Hounds of the Eighth Ward, and the Secondhand Lumber dealers Association who participated in all-male carnivals or parades, called "fantasticals" which were comprised of musicians and participants dressed in gaudy costumes parading through the streets on their way to picnics and all-night dances. The New York Times reported on November 28, 1884, the presence of "robbers, pirates, fiends, devils, imps, fairies, priests, bishops, gypsies, flower girls, kings, clowns, princes, jesters--all in variegated and bewildering attire.’’
• The first Thanksgiving Parade sponsored by R.H. Macy and Company began in 1924. By 1926 an average of 5,000 children, attracted to the parade and other promotions, made their way through Macy's every day during the Christmas season.
• November 25, 1925: In the first professional football game played on Thanksgiving Day, Fritz Pollard, the first African- American quarterback in the NFL, led the Akron Pros to a 7-0 victory over Jim Thorpe and the Canton Bulldogs. The game marked the start of the Thanksgiving tradition of pro football in America.
• In 1927, President Calvin Coolidge delivered his Thanksgiving proclamation over the radio before an evening musical program that culminated with Mozart’s opera The Magic Flute.
• In an issue of The Saturday Evening Post in 1931, a Thanksgiving advertisement for Camel peddled cigarettes as something to be thankful for.
• In 1934 on Thanksgiving Day, the Chicago Bears beat the Detroit Lion 19-16 in the first NFL game to be broadcast on national radio, NBC.
• In 1939, in order to boost Christmas sales, President Franklin Roosevelt moved Thanksgiving up one week earlier.
• In 1941, Congress reestablished that the 4th Thursday in November would be observed as Thanksgiving, making it a permanent national holiday.
• In 1947, the first official National Thanksgiving Turkey was presented to President Harry Truman, who followed President Lincoln’s example by pardoning it.
• NBC began televising the Thanksgiving Parade in 1948.
• By 1956, football games on Thanksgiving began to be televised.
• November 11, 1962: Before a national televised audience, 57,598 fans at Tiger Stadium watch the Lions sack Green Bay Packers quarterback Bart Starr 11 times for 110 yards lost. It was the Packers’ only loss of the year.
• From 1970-2005, the NFL played two games on Thanksgiving, often featuring the Detroit Lions and the Dallas Cowboys. In 2006, the Thanksgiving tripleheader began the same year NFL Network launched its package of live primetime Thursday games
• In 1971, First Lady Patricia Nixon presided over the traditional presentation of the Thanksgiving turkey by the Poultry and Egg Board and National Turkey, while President Nixon visited the Washington Redskins training camp.
• November 25, 1976: Buffalo Bills’ running back O.J. Simpson rushes for a league record 273 yards for a Thanksgiving Day game.
• November 26, 1998: Troy Aikman of the Dallas Cowboys throws for 455 yards against the Minnesota Vikings, an NFL record for Thanksgiving Day.
• In 2003, President George W. Bush spends Thanksgiving Day with American troops stationed in Iraq.
• In 2009, President Barack Obama pardons a North Carolina turkey named “Courage” during a ceremony attended by his daughters Sasha and Malia . Courage would be retired to Disneyland after leading the Thanksgiving Day parade there at the annual presentation of the Thanksgiving turkey by the Poultry and Egg Board and National Turkey Federation
• Of the number of places in the United States named after the holiday, Turkey, Texas, was the most populous in 2009, with 445 residents, followed by Turkey Creek, La. (362) and Turkey, N.C. (272). There are also nine townships around the country named Turkey, three in Kansas.
• Minnesota was tops in turkey production with 47 million, followed by North Carolina (31.0 million), Arkansas (28.0 million), Missouri (17.5 million), Indiana (16.0 million) and Virginia (15.5 million).
• The USDA estimates turkey sales will total $4.1 billion in 2010
• Nationally, AAA projects 42.2 million Americans will be traveling 50 miles or more away from home over the holiday weekend - an 11.4 percent increase over last year when 37.9 million traveled.
November 24, 2010
Source: ``The Making of the Domestic Occasion: The History of Thanksgiving in the United States’’ By Elizabeth Pleak, Journal of Social History, Summer 1999, Vol. 32 Issue 4, `` A Setting for The First Thanksgiving’’ Saturday Evening Post, November, 1981, ``A Thanksgiving Tradition’’ By Joseph Gustaitis, American History, Nov/Dec95, Vol. 30, Issue 5, The White House Historical Association, U.S. Census Bureau, The National Football League