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How American Thanksgiving Started

How American Thanksgiving Started:

The First Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving as a National Holiday

President Lincoln's Thanksgiving Proclamation

The First Thanksgiving:

  • September 6, 1620 the Pilgrims set sail for the New World on a ship called the Mayflower.
  • December 11, 1620 the Pilgrims arrive at Plymouth.
  • March 22, 1621 the Pilgrims signed a peace treaty with Massasoit, chief of the Wampanoag tribe.
  • Late Autumn, 1621 the Pilgrims invite Massoit and the Wampanoag to a 3 day festival celebrating their good harvest.

Thanksgiving as a National Holiday:

  • 1621 Pilgrims celebrate the "first Thanksgiving".
  • 1777 - 1783 Thanksgiving proclaimed annually by Congress
  • 1789 and 1795 Thanksgiving declared by President George Washington
  • 1798 -1799 Thanksgiving declared by President John Adams
  • 1815 Thanksgiving declared by President James Madison
  • 1863 President Lincoln makes his Thanksgiving Proclaimation which became an annual tradition
  • 1941 President Roosevelt makes Thanksgiving an official national holiday celebrated on the 4th Thursday of November



President Lincoln's Thanksgiving Proclamation


October 1863

The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added which are of so extraordinary a nature that they can not fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God.

In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign states to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere, except in the theater of military conflict, while that theater has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.

Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense have not arrested the plow, the shuttle, or the ship; the ax has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well as the iron and coal as of our precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege, and the battlefield, and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the imposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the divine purpose, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity, and union.


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