2001 34¢ Thanksgiving
US #3546 – Though Thanksgiving celebrations were held since the 1620s, they didn’t become an annual holiday until 1863.

On October 3, 1789 and 1863, two sitting presidents called on Americans to celebrate a day of Thanksgiving in November.

Though colonists had held harvest celebrations of thanks since the 1620s, it wasn’t an official holiday celebrated everywhere. That changed in 1789. On September 25, Elias Boudinot presented a resolution to the House of Representatives asking that President Washington “recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer… the many signal favors of Almighty God.”

1867 12¢ Washington, black
US #97 – Washington issued his proclamation to encourage Americans to celebrate their victory in the Revolution.

Congress approved the resolution and appointed a committee to approach Washington. Washington agreed and issued his proclamation on October 3. In it, he asked all Americans to observe November 26 as a day to give thanks to God for their victory in the Revolution as well as their establishment of a Constitution and government. He then gave it to the governors of each state and asked them to publish it for all to see.

In the years that followed, Presidents John Adams and James Madison issued similar proclamations, but none were permanent. In 1817, New York officially established an annual Thanksgiving holiday. Other northern states followed suit, though they weren’t all on the same day.

1866 15c Lincoln, black
US #77 – Lincoln issued his proclamation to help heal the nation during the Civil War.

Sarah Josepha Hale (famous for the nursery rhyme “Mary Had a Little Lamb”) began a rigorous campaign in 1827 to make Thanksgiving a national holiday. She published articles and wrote letters to countless politicians, to no avail. Finally, in 1863, at the height of the Civil War, President Lincoln received one of her letters and was inspired. On October 3, he issued his own proclamation, establishing the last Thursday of November as a day of Thanksgiving. In particular to pray for those who lost loved ones in the war and to “heal the wounds of the nation.”

2009 44¢ Thanksgiving Day Parade
US #4417-20 – The first Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade was held in 1924.

Thanksgiving continued to be celebrated on the last Thursday of November until 1939, when President Franklin Roosevelt moved it up a week to increase retail sales during the Great Depression. Americans were outraged and dubbed it “Franksgiving.” Two years later he reversed his policy and signed a bill making Thanksgiving the fourth Thursday of November, as it has remained ever since.

Click here to read Washington’s Thanksgiving proclamation and click here for Lincoln’s proclamation.

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  1. We are blessed in this country, and it would be great if we could one day have the entire world blessed enough to share in this concept. Give to organizations that improve the worlds standards of living.!

    1. Agree–we are indeed blessed in this country! We should be very thankful for what our founding fathers created for all of us. The U.S. is the first country in mankind’s history to become a Republic based on the Constitution that has stood the test of time and where the citizens rule. All forms that came before were monarchies, empires or dictatorships ruled by kings, tyrants or dictators. Sadly, that is now being steadily eroded by the same ilk of elitists and power-hungry politicians and bureaucrats that have dominated since the dawn of time… “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.”

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