Friday, November 16, 2012

The Cranberry Precedent

[In this guest post, Reference Intern Janeen Williams explores the legal history of the Thanksgiving holiday. Post title courtesy of Lee Cloninger.] 

Currently, Thanksgiving falls on the fourth Thursday in November, but that has not always been the case. The tradition of the "Day of Thanks" began soon after the establishment of the United States. In 1789, in accordance with George Washington's proclamation, Thanksgiving was on Thursday, November 26; however, at this time the holiday was not annual. The holiday was not annually recognized until after Abraham Lincoln’s proclamation in 1863.

In the mid-1900s, when states began to recognize Thanksgiving on different Thursdays, Congress decided to enact legislation that would create a fixed national date for the holiday. In 1941, President Roosevelt signed legislation establishing Thanksgiving as a national holiday that would occur on the fourth Thursday in November. Visit the National Archives website to see federal documents relating to Thanksgiving, including George Washington's proclamation and the 1941 Senate Resolution declaring that the fourth Thursday in November will be Thanksgiving.

For more information on Thanksgiving and the Presidents, visit HeinOnline’s U.S. Presidential Library (current Duke University NetID required) to search for "Thanksgiving," or Ask a Librarian. The Goodson Blogson previously reviewed the history of one presidential Thanksgiving tradition in Pardon That Turkey. Finally, visit Hours & Directions to view our Thanksgiving weekend hours and closures. The Goodson Law Library wishes all of our readers a safe and happy holiday.