Portrait of American president Abraham Lincoln, 1863. Courtesy Library of Congress.
Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images
November 23, 2022 7:00 AM EST

While Thanksgiving is usually traced back to a 1621 meal between pilgrims and Native Americans, its origins as a national holiday are much more recent.

On Oct. 3, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation declaring the last Thursday of November as a day of Thanksgiving. He saw the occasion as a peaceful interlude amid the Civil War.

The proclamation marked the culmination of a 36-year crusade to make Thanksgiving a national holiday led by Sarah Josepha Hale. As TIME previously reported, she envisioned a day filled with roast turkey, pumpkin pie, and sweet potatoes and launched a letter-writing campaign to members of Congress and governors. In a Sept. 28, 1863 letter to Lincoln, she pointed out that he could continue the tradition set by George Washington, who declared the first national Thanksgiving in 1789 on the last Thursday of November.

It would be another 60 years until a President, Franklin Roosevelt, designated the fourth Thursday of November, specifically, as a federal holiday.

You can read the full text of Lincoln’s proclamation below:

More Must-Reads From TIME

Write to Olivia B. Waxman at olivia.waxman@time.com.

You May Also Like
EDIT POST