How Thanksgiving Became a Holiday: From the Wampanoag & Pilgrims to Washington & Lincoln

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American lore says that Thanksgiving began in Plymouth Colony under a veil of friendship between the Pilgrims and Wampanoag Indians in 1621. While this event is steeped in our national history—and mythology—what many Americans do not know is that Thanksgiving was not recognized across the USA until 1789 under George Washington. Or that it would take nearly a century until Thanksgiving became an annual holiday during the Civil War. Before you travel to visit your friends and family this holiday season, we encourage you to join us for a webinar about the history of Thanksgiving and how it became a national holiday. Sharing this story will be historian Diana Muir Appelbaum, the author of Thanksgiving: An American Holiday, An American History.

During our event, we’ll discuss the harvest days that predate Plymouth Colony and why our understanding of the “First Thanksgiving” is complicated. We’ll also discuss Washington’s “Day of Publick Thanksgivin” to unite the nation in its first year under the Constitution; and why Abraham Lincoln sought an annual Thanksgiving while battlefields raged during the Civil War. Finally, we’ll discuss the fascinating story of how Franklin D. Roosevelt changed the date of Thanksgiving to boost the economy during the Great Depression and the legacy of Thanksgiving today, our nation’s most popular holiday.

Like all U.S. Capitol Historical Society webinars, this event is free and open to the public; registration is required.