The Library Springfield-Greene County Library District Springfield, Missouri
History & Biography

History of Thanksgiving

The origins of Thanksgiving can be traced back hundreds of years. Significant dates in the development of our modern Thanksgiving Day are highlighted in this timeline. 

1541  The Spanish explorer Francisco Vasquez de Coronado and 1,500 of his men held a thanksgiving celebration in the Palo Duro Canyon, located in the modern-day Texas Panhandle.

1564  French Huguenot colonists held a thanksgiving ceremony near present-day Jacksonville, Fla.

1621  Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians celebrated the fall harvest with a feast. This celebration is most often cited as the inspiration for our modern Thanksgiving.

1789  President George Washington called for a national day of thanksgiving and prayer to be held on November 26, 1789.

1827  Sarah Hale, editor of “Ladies’ Magazine,” wrote editorials encouraging the nationalization of a Thanksgiving holiday. Later, she began writing letters to state and federal officials, including President Lincoln.

1863  President Abraham Lincoln declared that the last Thursday in November would be a national day of Thanksgiving.

1876  The American Intercollegiate Football Association began holding championship football games on Thanksgiving Day.

1924  The first Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade was held in New York City.

1934  The first NFL Thanksgiving Day game (between the Chicago Bears and the Detroit Lions) was broadcast on NBC radio. The game was first televised in 1956.

1941  After moving Thanksgiving to the third Thursday in November for two years in an effort to help retailers by extending the Christmas shopping season, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed legislation establishing Thanksgiving as the fourth Thursday in November, to begin in 1942.

To learn more about the history of Thanksgiving, visit these websites:
Thanksgiving –
Thanksgiving - For Teachers (Library of Congress)

To find books and other materials about Thanksgiving in the Springfield-Greene County Library's collection, search the catalog under the subject Thanksgiving. Or search for Thanksgiving by keyword.  

The following books in the Library's collection can help you learn more about the history of Thanksgiving or just help you get ready for the big meal:

Giving Thanks: Thanksgiving Recipes and History from Pilgrims to Pumpkin Pie by Kathleen Curtain, Sandra L. Oliver, and the Plimoth Plantation. Explores the delicious, fascinating history of Thanksgiving, complete with trivia, recipes, and an amazing collection of archival imagery of the holiday's history.



 Thanksgiving: The Biography of an American Holiday
by James W. Baker. Sweeps away lingering myths and misconceptions to show how this celebration day was born and grew to be an essential part of our national spirit.



 America's Parade: A Celebration of Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade by the editors of Life. Contains never-before-seen pictures of one of America's greatest holiday celebrations from the Macy's photo archives.



 The Thanksgiving Ceremony: New Traditions for America's Family Feast by Edward Bleier. Introduces a brand-new tradition for the Thanksgiving table, offering a wonderful way for all Americans to give thanks and rejoice in the sense of togetherness and community this special holiday brings.


 The Book of Thanksgiving: Stories, Poems, and Recipes for Sharing One of America's Greatest Holidays by Jessica Faust and Jacky Sach. Shows readers how to buy, prepare, and cook the perfect turkey, create beautiful, distinctive table settings, turn festive craft-making into a treasured family activity, and enjoy the day with fun-filled games and songs.



 The New Thanksgiving Table: An American Celebration of Family, Friends, and Food by Diane Morgan. The quintessential cookbook for our national day of thanks, capturing this diversity with creative recipes for the perfect dinner and providing the key to a stress-free occasion with the author's indispensable do-ahead tips.



 How to Cook a Turkey: And All the Other Trimmings from the editors of Fine Cooking magazine. Contains 100 recipes for everything from appetizers to desserts (including an entire chapter on pies), as well as lots of information on everything to do with turkeys (buying info, thawing times, oven temperatures, cook times), as well as on stuffing and making gravy.


 Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War by Nathaniel Philbrick. Reveals that the true story of the Pilgrims is much more than the well-known tale of piety and sacrifice; it is a fifty-five-year epic that is at once tragic, heroic, exhilarating, and profound.



 Thanksgiving Recipes and text by Michael McLaughlin. Offers easy-to-follow recipes you will want to include in your own holiday menu year after year, including inspiring first courses and a tempting variety of side dishes and desserts as well as some new ideas for the main course.



Source for timeline information:
“Thanksgiving.” Student Resource Center. Detroit: Gale, 2009. Discovering Collection. Gale. Springfield-Greene County Libray – MOREnet. Retrieved 1 Nov. 2011

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