President Truman receiving a Thanksgiving turkey from members of the
Poultry and Egg National Board outside the White House, 16 Nov 1949
Harry S. Truman Library (NLHST)
[ARC Identifier 200138]



Did you know that the Presidential tradition of pardoning a holiday turkey did not start with Harry Truman, as commonly believed? I had no idea the historical record was so murky – something genealogists are used to dealing with! – but the background for the custom is here. More at the jump.



I also never realized that the first national proclamation related to Thanksgiving in the United States was issued by George Washington. He declared Thursday, November 26, 1789, as an official holiday of “sincere and humble thanks,” the first the United States enjoyed under the new Constitution. Here’s Washington’s proclamation:


George Washington’s Thanksgiving Day Proclamation, 3 Oct 1789,
Old Military and Civil Records LICON, Textual Archives Services Division (NWCTB), National Archives [ARC Identifier 299956]
All this time I thought it President Lincoln issued the first Thanksgiving proclamation. He may not have been first, but he was eloquent, calling upon the nation to “set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise.” Here’s Lincoln’s proclamation:



President Abraham Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Day Proclamation 3 Oct 1863 Page 1
Old Military and Civil Records LICON, Textual Archives Services Division (NWCTB), National Archives
 [ARC Identifier 299960]

 
More historic documents related to Thanksgiving are available at the National Archives Web site or by clicking here.

As for me, this year I’m grateful for all the help I’ve had making progress with my German lines, but mostly I’m thankful for the readers who have treated my new blog with such kindness. Thank you very much. Happy searching!