Readers, we offer here a few treasures and entertainments to while away your Thanksgiving weekend hours.
Few images are as iconic for Americans as that of the first pilgrims and the Wampanoag tribe sitting down to the first Thanksgiving in Plymouth in 1621. The familiar painting of this scene was executed by artist Jennie Augusta Brownscombe in 1914.
The first official proclamation of “Thanksgiving” in the American colonies was made by the governing council of Charlestown, Massachusetts in 1676:
The Holy God having by a long and Continual Series of his Afflictive dispensations in and by the present War with the Heathen Natives of this land, written and brought to pass bitter things against his own Covenant people in this wilderness, yet so that we evidently discern that in the midst of his judgments he hath remembered mercy, having remembered his Footstool in the day of his sore displeasure against us for our sins, with many singular Intimations of his Fatherly Compassion, and regard; reserving many of our Towns from Desolation Threatened, and attempted by the Enemy, and giving us especially of late with many of our Confederates many signal Advantages against them, without such Disadvantage to ourselves as formerly we have been sensible of, if it be the Lord’s mercy that we are not consumed, It certainly bespeaks our positive Thankfulness, when our Enemies are in any measure disappointed or destroyed; and fearing the Lord should take notice under so many Intimations of his returning mercy, we should be found an Insensible people, as not standing before Him with thanksgiving, as well as lading him with our Complaints in the time of pressing Afflictions.
The name of the council’s secretary, Edward Rawson, was affixed to it.
A national day of thanksgiving was proclaimed each year during the Revolutionary War by the Continental Congress. According to the Daughters of the American Revolution magazine from 1917, the celebration of 1778 was particularly noteworthy:
A certain Thanksgiving celebration which occurred during this period of conflict is especially noteworthy at this time when our soldiers are being sent away to fight for the Colors in France. On May 6, 1778, following that notable winter at Valley Forge, General Washington, after receiving the glad news that France had concluded a treaty of alliance in acknowledgment of the Thirteen American States, issued a Thanksgiving Proclamation in which he outlined a most elaborate program of ceremonies for May 7, 1778.
On this occasion General Lafayette and other French officers were present; also Mrs. Washington, Mrs. Green, Lady Stirling and many other ladies took part. There was a great display of artillery and discharge of cannon. After a discharge of 13 guns, and at a given signal the whole Army gave the huzza, “Long live the King of France!” After another discharge there followed a second huzza, “Long live the European powers!” And finally, after a discharge of 13 pieces of artillery, a final huzza, “The American States!”
The program of ceremonies, as outlined by Washington in his “orderly book,” has been preserved.
The National Constitution Center reminds us that 26 November 2014 marks the 225th anniversary of George Washington’s first national proclamation of a day of thanksgiving to the United States of America.
In 1863, the dark middle of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln declared the national day of thanksgiving a federal holiday. That year, Thanksgiving Day fell on 26 November. The following year, famed cartoonist Thomas Nast commemorated the celebration of the second official Thanksgiving holiday.
In 1927, Calvin Coolidge became the first president to deliver a radio address with a Thanksgiving message for the nation. Unfortunately, no audio of this address appears to be extant.
During the Great Depression of the 1930s, many out-of-work Americans had to rely on handouts for a Thanksgiving meal.
In 1941, FDR established the fourth Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day. In that year, Thanksgiving fell on the 27th. Ten days later, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, and on 8 December 1941, the U.S. entered World War II.
Thanksgiving at war was a theme throughout much of the 20th century. This clip shows soldiers on the front lines mustering up a Thanksgiving in Korea in 1950.
By 1967, American soldiers were having Thanksgiving in Vietnam.
In 1973, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving debuted on CBS and quickly became a national favorite, working its way into the childhood memories of two – going on three – generations.
By the 1970s, Americans had made football an integral part of their Thanksgiving celebrations, and many of football’s best contests have been fought on Thanksgiving Day. One of the best occurred in 1974, when the Redskins played the Cowboys in Dallas. Cowboy great Roger Staubach was knocked out of the game with an injury in the second half, and backup quarterback Clint Longley had to step in and finish the game. In an incredible fourth quarter, the Cowboys came from behind to win, 24-23, when Longley completed a 50-yard touchdown pass to Hall of Famer Drew Pearson.
From 1985, Ronald Reagan’s Thanksgiving address on national TV.
Another Thanksgiving tradition, beloved of generations, is the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in New York City.
And one more view of Americans at war on Thanksgiving, this one from Iraq in 2003.
Americans have long been a diverse people, and our diversity has only increased since this iconic Norman Rockwell painting – entitled “Freedom from Want” – first appeared in the Saturday Evening Post in 1942. The sense of family security Rockwell captured spans race and time, however, and forms the core of the thankful spirit we have made a point of cultivating from our earliest days.
We end with a rendition of the Henry Alford hymn “Come Ye Thankful People, Come,” which many readers will remember from Thanksgiving-week services over the years. This hymn demands a strong organ, and it was surprisingly hard to find a video with a good pairing of organ and voices. So our cousins from across the pond are helping us out with this one.
(For those who would like to hear the organ accompaniment alone, played just as it should be, check here.)
A happy and blessed Thanksgiving to all of you from Liberty Unyielding.