FDR establishes modern Thanksgiving holiday 1941
President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs a bill officially establishing the fourth Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day.
The tradition of celebrating the holiday on Thursday dates back to the early history of the Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay colonies, when post-harvest holidays were celebrated on the weekday regularly set aside as “Lecture Day,” a midweek church meeting where topical sermons were presented. A famous Thanksgiving observance occurred in the autumn of 1621, when Plymouth governor William Bradford invited local Indians to join the Pilgrims in a three-day festival held in gratitude for the bounty of the season.
Thanksgiving became an annual custom throughout New England in the 17th century, and in 1777 the Continental Congress declared the first national American Thanksgiving following the Patriot victory at Saratoga. In 1789, President George Washington became the first president to proclaim a Thanksgiving holiday, when, at the request of Congress, he proclaimed November 26, a Tuesday, as a day of national thanksgiving for the U.S. Constitution. However, it was not until 1863, when President Abraham Lincolndeclared Thanksgiving to fall on the last Thursday of November, that the modern holiday was celebrated nationally.
With a few deviations, Lincoln’s precedent was followed annually by every subsequent president–until 1939. In 1939, Franklin D. Roosevelt departed from tradition by declaring November 23, the next to last Thursday that year, as Thanksgiving Day. Considerable controversy surrounded this deviation, and some Americans refused to honor Roosevelt’s declaration. For the next two years, Roosevelt repeated the unpopular proclamation, but on November 26, 1941, he admitted his mistake and signed a bill into law officially making thefourth Thursday in November the national holiday of Thanksgiving Day.
(More Events on This Day in History)
Archaeologists enter tomb of King Tut
In Egypt’s Valley of the Kings, British archaeologists Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon become the first souls to enter King Tutankhamen’s tomb in more than 3,000 years. Tutankhamen’s sealed burial chambers were miraculously intact, and inside was a collection of several thousand ...
WORLD WAR I
T.E. Lawrence reports on Arab affairs
On November 26, 1916, Thomas Edward Lawrence, a junior member of the British government’s Arab Bureau during World War I, publishes a detailed report analyzing the revolt led by the Arab leader Sherif Hussein against the Ottoman Empire in the late spring of 1916.As a scholar and ...
Air Force helicopter pilot rescues Special Forces team
While returning to base from another mission, Air Force 1st Lt. James P. Fleming and four other Bell UH-1F helicopter pilots get an urgent message from an Army Special Forces team pinned down by enemy fire.Although several of the other helicopters had to leave the area because of ...
Football trailblazer Art Shell is born
On November 26, 1946, Art Shell is born in Charleston, South Carolina. Shell was a gifted athlete: He made the All-State teams in both football and basketball at Bonds-Wilson High School in North Charleston and went on to become a star football player and All-American at Maryland ...
George W. Bush pardons a turkey
On this day in 2002, President George W. Bush issues a humorous but sincere presidential pardon to a lucky turkey that otherwise might have ended up on someone’s Thanksgiving Day dinner table. In doing so, he continued a tradition begun in 1947 when the National Turkey Foundation ...
The Great Diamond Hoax is exposed
The Great Diamond Hoax, one of the most notorious mining swindles of the time, is exposed with an article in the San Francisco Evening Bulletin.Fraudulent gold and silver mines were common in the years following the California Gold Rush of 1849. Swindlers fooled many eager ...