Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

By 1941, Most Pelhamites Celebrated "Franksgiving" Rather than "Republican Thanksgiving"

From 1939 through 1941, much of the United States celebrated what many called "Franksgiving" rather than "Republican Thanksgiving."  The term "Franksgiving" reportedly was coined by Atlantic City mayor Thomas D. Taggart, Jr. as a combination of "Franklin" (as in then-President Franklin Delano Roosevelt) and Thanksgiving.  Statistics on the sales of turkeys by local butchers in Pelham suggest that Pelhamites embraced the concept of "Franksgiving" wholeheartedly.  What, you may ask, was Franksgiving?

Since the time of President Abraham Lincoln, it had been customary for United States Presidents to issue proclamations declaring a general day of thanksgiving to be observed on the last Thursday of November.  In 1939, however, the final phase of the Great Depression continued to rage across the nation.  The late calendar date of the last Thursday of November that year (November 30) concerned many merchants who felt that after-Thanksgiving / pre-Christmas retail sales would be adversely impacted by the short holiday shopping season at a time when the United States economy needed all the help it could get.

An executive of an industry trade group known as the Retail Dry Goods Association reportedly warned the U.S. Secretary of Commerce that the late calendar date of Thanksgiving in 1939 likely would have an adverse impact on holiday retail sales.  President Roosevelt sprang into action.  FDR issued a proclamation declaring the second-to-last Thursday of the month of November that year, November 23, as the national day of general thanksgiving.  

Republicans were outraged.  The late change in the holiday date affected travel plans and holiday plans of many Americans.  Previously-scheduled Thanksgiving football games suddenly were no longer going to be played on Thanksgiving.  The President quickly announced that he planned to do the same thing the following year (in 1940) to give the nation time to plan for the following year as well.

Soon, the United States found itself celebrating two Thanksgiving holidays.  In 1940, thirty-two state governments (and the District of Columbia) observed the earlier Thanksgiving date set by the President's proclamation.  Sixteen states, however, chose to recognize what some called the "Republican Thanksgiving" on the last Thursday of November.  The following year (1941), President Roosevelt likewise proclaimed Thanksgiving Day as the second-to-last Thursday of the month of November.

By 1941, it seems that Pelham was dutifully doing its patriotic part to help the American economy by celebrating "Franksgiving" rather than the later "Republican Thanksgiving."  Perhaps, however, Pelhamites were a little less political than might otherwise be suggested -- perhaps they just wanted their roast turkey and stuffing earlier in the month, not later!  In any event, in late November of 1941 a reporter for The Pelham Sun surveyed local butchers and uncovered evidence that most Pelhamites bought turkeys early in preparation for Franksgiving rather than later in preparation for Republican Thanksgiving.

That year, however, a U.S. Commerce Department analysis showed "no significant expansion of retail sales" due to the change in the Thanksgiving calendar by President Roosevelt.  Thankfully (pun intended), on November 26, 1941, President Roosevelt did away with Franksgiving by signing into law a joint resolution of Congress designating the fourth Thursday in November of each year as Thanksgiving Day.  Within a short time, most states changed their own laws to recognize the date of the nationally-observed holiday -- the fourth Thursday in November.  Franksgiving would be no more.

Below is an article that appeared in the November 28, 1941 issue of The Pelham Sun detailing the turkey purchasing habits of Pelhamites that year, only a few days after the President signed into law the statute doing away with Franksgiving.  

"There Was Little Demand For Turkey For 'Late' Thanksgiving In Pelham
Reports of Butchers Indicate That Pelham Residents Have Become Used to Eating Their Turkey Early.

The gentle passage of time is supposed to heal all wounds, and if the sale of Thanksgiving turkeys this week in Pelham markets is a true barometer, the passage of time is also an adjuster of holidays.

Last year when President Franklin D. Roosevelt suggested advancing the date of Thanksgiving, there was some protest, from those who adhere to tradition.  True it was that the majority of Pelhamites observed Thanksgiving on the date named in the Governor's proclamation, Nov. 20, 1940; but a number of Pelhamites observed Thanksgiving on Nov. 27.  The sale of 258 turkeys in local marrkets for 'late' holiday last year revealed this.

However, this year the butchers report that only 75 Thanksgiving turkeys were sold for the 'late' Thanksgiving. 

Apparently even over the brief span of a year the warmth of custom and tradition cools sufficiently to allow a knife and fork to be plunged deep into the soft meat of savory turkey a week earlier than usual -- or maybe it was impatience and an especially good appetite."

Source:  There Was Little Demand For Turkey For 'Late' Thanksgiving in Pelham, The Pelham Sun, Nov. 28, 1941, Vol. 31, No. 35, p. , cols-1-2.  

To read more about "Franksgiving" and "Republican Thanksgiving," see Franksgiving, Wikipedia - The Free Encyclopedia (visited Nov. 23, 2014).  

Happy Thanksgiving, Pelham!

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