The Documents Behind Thanksgiving

President Abraham Lincoln's Thanksgiving Day Proclamation of October 3, 1863 (Presidential Proclamation 106).

Despite what we learn in grade school, Thanksgiving has very little do with pilgrims. To examine the true back story of this holiday, The National Archives has compiled the government documents that ensure our break from school and work. The first Thanksgiving was on Thursday, November 26, 1789, and was the result of a proclamation from President George Washington. The goal of official holiday, and hence its name, was to offer “sincere and humble thanks.” In 1863, during the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln turned the traditional Thanksgiving celebration into a nationwide holiday to be celebrated each year on the fourth Thursday of November. This proclamation was issued as a sigh of relief following the Union’s successful campaigns at Vicksburg and Gettysburg. In a move to lengthen the holiday shopping season, in 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt moved the holiday up one week, but this move was reversed in 1941.

The Government Information and Kent Cooper Services Department would like to wish the Indiana University community a happy Thanksgiving! Upon your return to campus, and as finals approach, we look forward to serving your research need!

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