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Mayflower, Day by Day - Sunday, 10 October 1621

10 Oct 2021 3:47 AM | Soule (Administrator)

American v Canadian Thanksgiving (part one)

The official celebration of U.S. Thanksgiving originated during the War Between the States -- both Presidents (Davis and Lincoln) established more than one national day of thanksgiving.  Abraham Lincoln, urged by Sarah Josepha Hale (editor of Godey’s Lady’s Book, who wrote letters to politicians for 40 years advocating an official holiday), set a day of national Thanksgiving by proclamation for the final Thursday in November, explicitly in celebration of the bounties that had continued to fall on the Union and for the military successes in the war, and also explicitly in "humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience."  It was both a day of thanksgiving and a day of humiliation and fasting -- an odd combination, given how the holiday has developed.  Thanksgiving was a civic and civil day of celebration, and was only connected with the Pilgrims later on in the nineteenth century -- I am looking for a date range at which the Pilgrim celebration came to be seen as a proto-Thanksgiving Day, but have thus far not been able to discover when that happened.  James Baker notes that while there are numerous Victorian pictures of Pilgrims (voyage of the Mayflower, landing on Plymouth Rock, courtship of Myles Standish, etc., etc., etc.) there are no nineteenth century paintings or engravings of a Plymouth “First Thanksgiving” (Baker, Thanksgiving: The Biography of an American Holiday [Durham, NH: University of New Hampshire Press, 2009], p. 9).

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