Back in 2013 I did a presentation at the Association of Living History Farms and Museums national conference about Thanksgiving with the incomparable Kathleen Wall (who handled the what the Puritans actually did portion). I just did it again at Windmill Area in Fulton, IL and I thought it was time to share the information again.
I have a strong belief that handouts should be set up to easily share the gist of the information. Therefore my normal handout is one page, sometimes I slide to two pages like this one, but I always have a paragraph that summarizes my main points and a list of resources used. For this handout I’ve added a list of important dates. I hope you find this handout useful both as a PDF and in this post.
Why Pioneers and Victorians Have More to Do with Starting Thanksgiving Than the Puritans
Although Thanksgiving is most closely associated with the Pilgrims/Puritans, most of how we celebrate was created by Victorians building upon a nearly global tradition of celebrating the harvest in the fall. Starting in New England, it slowly spread across the country. By the 1850s the connection of Thanksgiving with turkey, pumpkin, and eating a big meal with the extended family (if possible)and the New York Times considered it a national holiday although the exact dates varied as they were proclaimed by each individual state governor until Lincoln’s proclamation in 1863 and the President’s proclamation each year subsequently. Many parts of Thanksgiving came later than you would think (it wasn’t made a fixed official federal holiday until 1941), but traditions slowly grew up over time. These myths and legends all gave credit to the Puritans to more modern traditions. This link focused America’s founding and history on Puritan New England instead of other earlier settlements and helped shape her values. It was supported by the repeated waves of Colonial Revival.
- After 1815, no more Presidential Thanksgivings as day of prayer, gratitude, and reflection
- 1822, Account of 1621 thanksgiving rediscovered
- 1841, Alexander Young declared 1621 was first Thanksgiving as we think of it today
- 1854, NYT urges keep “institution as our Puritan grandmothers left it”
- 1855, NYT says Thanksgiving is now a national holiday
- 1863, Official American Thanksgiving, November
- 1876, First Big Thanksgiving Football Game
- 1879, Official Canadian Thanksgiving, October
- 1889, Standish of Standish by Jane G. (Jane Goodwin) Austin
- 1921, Gimble’s Thanksgiving Parade, Philadelphia begins
- 1924, Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, New York begins
- 1924, Hudson’s Thanksgiving Parade, Detroit begins
- 1939-1940-1941 Franksgiving
- 1941, American Thanksgiving set by Congressional Joint Resolution to fourth Thursday in November
Sources and Citations
Unfortunately citations in WordPress lose some of their formatting, but you can find it correct on the PDF version. Hyperlinking in this blog design adds an underline which should not be there in the formatting. These citations are done in 7th edition MLA. The 8th edition came out earlier this year, but they are still overlapping in use so I left it in 7th and added new references in that format.
Ames, Kenneth L. Death in the Dining Room and Other Tales of Victorian Culture. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Temple University Press, 1922. Print.
Anderson, Laurie Halse. Thank You, Sarah: The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2002. Print.
Baker, James W. and Peggy M. Baker. “Thanksgiving.” Encyclopedia of Food and Culture. Ed. Solomon Katz. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2003. 394-396. Print.
Clarkson, Janet. Pie: A Global History. London: Reakiton, 2009. Print.
Cohen, Hennig and Tristram Potter Coffin [eds.] The Folklore of American Holidays. Detroit, Michigan: Gale, 1989. Print.
Curtin, Kathleen and Sandra L. Oliver. Giving Thanks: Thanksgiving Recipes and History, from Pilgrims to Pumpkin Pie. New York: Clarkson Potter, 2005. Print.
Hough, Henry Beetle. “It’s Thanksgiving Because It’s Home.” New York Times. 24 November 1946.
“Lydia Maria Child.” Dictionary of Unitarian and Universalist Biography. 2013. Web. 6 June 2013.
Myers, Robert J. Celebrations: The Complete Book of American Holidays. Garden City, New York: Doubleday and Company, 1972. Print.
Rothman, Lily. “FDR Moved Thanksgiving to Give People More Time to Shop.” 28 Nov. 2014. Web. 29 Oct. 2016.
Smith, Andrew F. Popped Culture: A Social History of Popcorn in America. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institute Press, 2001. Print.
“Thanksgiving.” New York Times. 6 November 1852: 1.
“Thanksgiving.” New York Times. 18 November 1858: 4.
“Thanksgiving Ahead.” New York Times. 25 October 1854: 4.
“Thanksgiving And the Aftermath.” New York Times. 24 November 1901: SM13.
“Thanksgiving Day.” New York Times. 29 November 1855: 4.
Wilder, Laura Ingalls. Farmer Boy. New York: Harper Brothers, 1933. Print.
Wilder, Laura Ingalls. Little Town on the Prairie. New York: Harper Brothers, 1941. Print.
Wilder, Laura Ingalls. On the Banks of Plum Creek. New York: Harper Brothers, 1937. Print.
Wilder, Laura Ingalls. “Thanksgiving Time.” Ed. William T. Anderson. A Little House Sampler. New York: Harper and Row, 1988. Print.
Wilder, Mrs. A.J. “As the Farm Women Thinks.” Missouri Ruralist. 1 November 1923: 16.
Sarah S. Uthoff is the main force behind Trundlebed Tales striving to bring the History, Mystery, Magic and Imagination of Laura Ingalls Wilder and other greats of children’s literature and history to life for a new generation. Uthoff is a nationally known Laura Ingalls Wilder authority and has presented at five of the Wilder homesites, many conferences and numerous libraries, museums, and events around the Midwest. Attend one of her programs, schedule one yourself, watch her videos, listen to her podcast, and find her on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, and Academia.edu. Professionally she is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College and director of the Oxford (Iowa) Public Library.