The famous American holiday is linked to the story of the Mayflower and the Pilgrim Fathers. It was celebrated a short year after their landing in gratitude to God and also to thank the Amerindians for their assistance. It later became an official holiday, anchoring its story in the founding moments of the nation.

Abraham Lincoln makes Thanksgiving official (10)

This proclamation by Abraham Lincoln institutionalized the annual celebration of Thanksgiving, on every Thursday following November 26th. In 1863, the President wished to thank God for the quality of the harvest and for having preserved the country from being torn apart after the Civil War. It is also a reminder of the Puritan origin of the Union. The presidential tradition of pardoning a turkey is said to have been inspired by Abraham Lincoln’s own son.
Abraham Lincoln’s Proclamation, October 3, 1863, Historic New England Museum, Boston, facsimile.

The very first Thanksgiving (11)

One year after their landing in 1620, the Pilgrim Fathers celebrated in Plymouth a Thanksgiving feast of gratitude with the Native American tribe of the Wampanoags. The latter had facilitated their survival by teaching them how to fish, hunt and grow corn. Abraham Lincoln would institute an annual celebration of this event. This 1925 representation by painter Jennie Brownscombe (1850-1936) expresses nostalgia for a time when urbanization had not yet changed the American East Coast.

Jennie Augusta Brownscombe, Thanksgiving at Plymouth, 1925,
National Museum of Women in The Arts, facsimile.