The story of the first Thanksgiving that we read in history books tells how groups of pilgrims sailed to a new world and broke bread with indigenous Americans to show thanks for a successful harvest. But it’s little known that the holiday wasn’t officially a national holiday until Abraham Lincoln declared it so.
Janet Davis, professor of history at the University of Texas at Austin, says the declaration was the culmination of a long petitioning effort by poet and magazine editor Sarah Josepha Hale. She’d been petitioning presidents for the holiday since 1827.
“What finally happens, of course, is that she petitions again in 1863,” Davis says. “President Lincoln – at this time beleaguered by the Civil War – her plea to unify the country had special resonance in 1863.”
What you’ll hear in this segment:
– How Thanksgiving became a declared holiday
– The dispute surrounding which day the holiday should take place
– How Christmas shopping played into the declaration of the holiday