Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Year We Had Two Thanksgivings

Image Credit: WishUponaCupcake
Yesterday, the National Archives' featured document was George Washington's 1789 Thanksgiving Proclamation. Exploring the additional links on yesterday's National Archives post led me to a story and collection of documents on the FDR Presidential Library titled The Year We Had Two Thanksgivings.

The Year We Had Two Thanksgivings tells the story of Thanksgiving 1939. In 1939 Thanksgiving was going to fall on the last day of November which caused merchants to be worried about a shortened shopping season. In response to this concern President Roosevelt proclaimed that Thanksgiving would be moved up one week. Some states chose to ignore this proclamation and celebrate Thanksgiving on the last day of the month anyway. The conflict was finally resolved in 1941 when Congress passed a law stating that Thanksgiving would always be celebrated on the fourth Thursday of the month.

Applications for Education
The Year We Had Two Thanksgivings is supported by ten primary source documents. Included in those documents are letters from merchants appealing to FDR to change the day of Thanksgiving and letters opposing the change. You could distribute a different document to groups of students and have them defend a choice of either moving Thanksgiving up a week or leaving it on the last day of the month.