Thanksgiving is next week, and whether you’re eating turkey, turducken or tofurkey, chances are you’ll be spending the day with some of the people you care about most. In honor of the upcoming holiday, we are going to explore some Thanksgivings of the past, as depicted in Ohio’s historic newspapers on Ohio Memory and Chronicling America.
Although the United States Thanksgiving tradition dates back to colonial times, it was celebrated intermittently, on different days throughout the year, and not nationally observed until 1863. Following a proclamation issued by President Abraham Lincoln in October of that year, Thanksgiving became a federal holiday. Since then, it has been observed annually, and until 1941–when a joint resolution of the U.S. Congress fixed the day to the fourth Thursday of November–presidents have followed Lincoln’s example, proclaiming the holiday each year, typically on the last Thursday of November. The proclamations were printed in local newspapers so that citizens knew exactly which date was set aside, according to the 1887 Thanksgiving Proclamation by President Grover Cleveland, “as a day of thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by all people of the land” on which secular business was suspended.
What else did Ohioans find in their newspapers around Thanksgiving? Stories and poems themed around thankfulness and family celebrations; news of people visiting for the holidays; histories of the holiday; and pictures about arguably the most important “guest” at the Thanksgiving table: the turkey.
Thanksgiving also signals the start of the holiday season, and the day after, Black Friday, is known for the great deals and sales at virtually every store in the country. This year, some stores are opening their doors on Thanksgiving Day to boost their sales. This isn’t exactly a novel idea: in 1889, even the famous Lazarus department store was open until 1pm on the holiday!
Thanks to Jenni Salamon, Coordinator for the Ohio Digital Newspaper Program, for this week’s post!