A lot of people know that Thanksgiving started with the Pilgrims and Indians. But today I’m not going to retell that story. Abraham Lincoln’s successors as president followed his example of annually declaring the final Thursday in November to be Thanksgiving. But in 1939, my second to last favorite President, President Franklin D. Roosevelt broke this tradition. November had five Thursdays that year (instead of the more-common four), Roosevelt declared the fourth Thursday as Thanksgiving rather than the fifth one.
He did this because the country still in the midst of The Great Depression, Roosevelt thought an earlier Thanksgiving would give merchants a longer period to sell goods before Christmas. He wanted to do this because it was he wanted to increase profits and spending during this period, Roosevelt hoped, this would help bring the country out of the Depression.
At the time, unlike now. Advertising goods for Christmas BEFORE Thanksgiving was considered inappropriate. Fred Lazarus, Jr., founder of the Federated Department Stores (later Macy’s), has been credited with convincing Roosevelt to push Thanksgiving a week earlier to expand the shopping season, and within two years the change passed through Congress into law.
In 1940 and 1941, years in which November had four Thursdays, Roosevelt declared the third one as Thanksgiving. As in 1939, some states went along with the change while others retained the traditional last-Thursday date.
In case you’re wondering who my LEAST favorite President is…….it’s Woodrow Wilson.