For Years, Republican and Democratic States Held Separate Thanksgivings


Franklin Delano Roosevelt carving a turkey on the 5th Thursday of November, 1933.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt carving a turkey on the 5th Thursday of November, 1933.

In 1939, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt faced a dilemma. He was responsible for declaring the last Thursday of November to be a day of Thanksgiving—something American presidents had done since Abraham Lincoln began the tradition. But November of 1939 had five Thursdays, which would shorten the holiday shopping season. Retailers still struggling from the Great Depression encouraged him to move Thanksgiving earlier by a week. To the country’s shock, Roosevelt agreed. For the next three years, some states recognized the federal government’s new Thanksgiving date, while others defiantly stuck with the old one.

Roosevelt had rejected previous requests to change the date of Thanksgiving, fearing that he would foil local plans and disrupt football schedules. But according to The New York Times, due to the urging of “department stores, general stores, small stores, and almost every kind of store,” Roosevelt announced on April 14, 1939, that Thanksgiving would be on November 23 instead of the expected November 30.

Abraham Lincoln declared future Thanksgivings would be held on the last Thursday in November.
Abraham Lincoln declared future Thanksgivings would be held on the last Thursday in November.

Angry Americans sent Roosevelt thousands of letters and telegrams about the breach of tradition and their disrupted schedules. An anguished calendar maker from Salem, Ohio, wrote in a letter to the White House that the decision would cause “untold grief” in the industry, since 1939 calendars and many 1940 calendars had already been printed. Just as the White House had predicted, football schedules were scrambled, leading some coaches to vow to vote Republican.

Things quickly became partisan. Several states ignored the presidential proclamation due to tradition or convenience, and others ignored it to snub Roosevelt, a Democrat. This muddled schedules even more….

Sasha Harriet

Sasha Harriet

As content editor, I get to do what I love everyday. Tweet, share and promote the best content our tools find on a daily basis.

I have a crazy passion for #music, #celebrity #news & #fashion! I'm always out and about on Twitter.
Sasha Harriet

More from Around the Web

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news from our network of site partners.

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Pin It on Pinterest