“Disrespect for custom and tradition has been given too much encouragement in recent years. How much more appropriate would it be if the people throughout our land might celebrate Thanksgiving on the same day, as of yore. And how much more significance the day would have if it were celebrated on a traditional date. It seems to me that it would be well of the Congress . . . [to] adopt a joint resolution calling upon the President to proclaim the last Thursday of November each year as a day of thanksgiving.”
Ready for some turkey and taters? Thanksgiving Day has been around as long as the House of Representatives, and it’s seen some congressional attention since it was first declared more than 200 years ago.
The Thanksgiving Holiday
November 28, 1940
On this date, Representative Allen Treadway of Massachusetts made a plea on the House Floor for Congress to set the last Thursday of November as the legal holiday for Thanksgiving. On Thursday, November 26, 1789, President George Washington issued a proclamation for “a day of public thanksgiving and prayer.” Beginning in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln encouraged Americans to recognize the last Thursday of November as “a day of Thanksgiving.” A few years later in 1870, Congress followed suit by passing legislation making Thanksgiving (along with Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, and Independence Day) a national holiday. However, unlike the other holidays in the bill, the President had the discretion to set the date for Thanksgiving, which caused some consternation.
See other historical highlights featuring holidays.
No Going Home for the Holidays
We’ve all been a part of those Thanksgiving dinners where nobody got along. On Thanksgiving Day 1937, the House was no exception.
Most debates in the House are settled on the House Floor. But one unusual battle was fought—with potatoes—at the House Restaurant. In the northeastern corner, armed with Aroostook spuds, was Maine. In the northwestern corner, nicknamed the “Potato State,” was Idaho. Maine versus Idaho: the half-baked potato war of 1937.
House Bean Soup
Hosting Thanksgiving and tired of turkey? We suggest a Capitol classic and favorite of Speaker Joseph “Uncle Joe” Cannon. Check out the recipe for House Bean Soup straight from the 1955 House Restaurant menu.
This is part of a series of blog posts for educators highlighting the resources available on History, Art & Archives of the U.S. House of Representatives. For lesson plans, fact sheets, glossaries, and other materials for the classroom, see the website's Education section.Follow @USHouseHistory