American tradition holds that the Thanksgiving holiday harkens back to a celebration shared by the Pilgrims of Plymouth and the Wampanoag people in 1621, but centuries passed before Thanksgiving was declared a national holiday. At the request of the first Federal Congress, President George Washington declared November 26, 1789 a “Day of Publick Thanksgivin,” the first national day of thanksgiving in the fledgling United States. Later presidents declared days of thanksgiving at various times of year. President Abraham Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation of 1863 established Thanksgiving on the last Thursday of November.
Thanksgiving was held annually on that day until 1939, when President Franklin Roosevelt attempted to move it forward a week. Roosevelt, leading the United States during the Great Depression, wanted to lengthen the holiday shopping season due to economic concerns. Sixteen states refused to accept the change, so different parts of the country celebrated Thanksgiving on two different days for two years. Congress then passed a resolution declaring the fourth Thursday of November to be the legal Thanksgiving holiday, and President Roosevelt signed this into law on December 26, 1941, weeks after the United States entered World War II.
Today, Thanksgiving has become a traditional time for gathering together with loved ones to give thanks and to share a meal and good company.
The Thanksgiving postcards pictured were received by the Misses Mary Etta and Ellen Moore in 1914 and 1917, respectively. The sisters lived together at 331 Main Street. During November 1917, both contributed to the Nashua Red Triangle war fund following the United States’ entry into World War I earlier that year.
Happy Thanksgiving from the Nashua Historical Society.