Thanksgiving Day

By Timothy F. Mon, November 24, 2014

Cranberry production was down four percent this year – but American farmers still produced over eight million barrels (800 million pounds) of the fall favorite, so the country should have a decent supply this Thanksgiving. Turkey production is also down, though Pennsylvania is holding steady with seven million turkeys raised this year. (Source: USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service)

While celebrations for giving thanks in America have apparently been going on since colonial days, it was first commemorated as a United States holiday in 1789, when George Washington proclaimed the last Thursday of that November to be a national “day of public thanks-giving.” (See The Writings of George Washington, Volume 30, or read his proclamation online.) In the decades following, Thanksgiving celebrations were held around the country at all different times of the year. But a century later, in the midst of war, America’s other favorite president, Abraham Lincoln, followed Washington’s example and picked the last Thursday in November for an annual Thanksgiving Day. Ten years later Congress ratified the national holiday. Finally, after some haggle (and to avoid those years when the day would fall just a few weeks from Christmas), under Franklin D. Roosevelt and the 77th Congress, Thanksgiving was moved to the fourth Thursday in November.

Read more about Thanksgiving at the National Archives and the U.S. Census Bureau’s Facts for Features, and visit the Free Library’s Government Publications Department to explore more Congressional papers, Presidential documents, and Agricultural Statistics in print.  


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