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Tag: Prologue magazine

Thanksgiving: Another FDR Experiment

Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt host Thanksgiving dinner at Warm Springs, GA, November 23, 1939. (Roosevelt Library)

Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt host Thanksgiving dinner at Warm Springs, GA, November 23, 1939. (Roosevelt Library)

Yesterday we celebrated Thanksgiving, as usual, on the fourth Thursday of November. Today shoppers are hitting the stores for “Black Friday” super discounts to kick off holiday shopping.

But until 1939, Thanksgiving Day was traditionally the last Thursday in November. That year there were five Thursdays in the month, and concern about a shortened shopping season prompted President Franklin Roosevelt to break tradition and move the holiday a week back.  His action pleased retailers but rattled calendar makers. Read all about it in:

Prologue Magazine – “Thanksgiving: Another FDR Experiment”

[ Read all ]

Thanksgiving, as American as apple pie

Here, in short, are the documents that made Thanksgiving.

George Washington's proclamation to give thanks for the Constitution and the country (ARC Identifier 299956)

George Washington's proclamation to give thanks for the Constitution and the country (ARC Identifier 299956)

On October 3, 1789, President George Washington issued a proclamation naming Thursday, November 26, 1789, as an official holiday of “sincere and humble thanks.” The nation then celebrated its first Thanksgiving under its new Constitution.

lincoln-thanksgiving-proclamation-1-l

Page one of Lincoln's Thanksgiving Procalamation which set the holiday as the fourth Thursday in November (ARC 299960)

On October 3, 1863, President Lincoln made the traditional Thanksgiving celebration a nationwide holiday to be commemorated each year on the fourth Thursday of November. In the midst of a bloody Civil War, President Lincoln issued a Presidential Proclamation in which he enumerated the blessings of the American people and called upon his countrymen to “set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise.”

The House Joint Resolution Making the Last Thursday in November a Legal Holiday, Pearl Harbor had occured just over two weeks earlier (Records of the U.S. House of Representatives)

The House Joint Resolution Making the Last Thursday in November a Legal Holiday. FDR would sign this into law on December 26, just two weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor (Records of the U.S. House of Representatives)

In 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt moved the holiday to the third Thursday of November to lengthen the Christmas shopping season and boost the economy which was still recovering from the Depression. This move, which set off a … [ Read all ]

The peculiar story of Wilmer McLean

At left, Wilmer McLean's house where the Civil War began. At right, Wilmer McLean's house where the Civil War ended (111-B-4756, and 111-B-6333)

At left, Wilmer McLean's house where the Civil War 'began.' At right, Wilmer McLean's house where the Civil War ended. (111-B-4756 and 111-B-6333)

Today Part Two of “Discovering the Civil War” opens at the National Archives in Washington, DC. The exhibit is divided into a few sections, the last of which is entitled “Endings and Beginnings,” a reference to the end of the Civil War and the start of Reconstruction. As to the beginning and the end of the Civil War itself, there is only one man who book-ended it so literally. His name was Wilmer McLean.

On July 18, 1861, Confederate General Beauregard had sat down for supper in the home of a Manassas local when a cannonball pierced through the house and landed in the kitchen fireplace. It was something of a surprise, but not so overwhelming as to ruin Beauregard’s sense of humor “A comical effect of this artillery fight was the destruction of the dinner of myself and staff by a Federal shell that fell into the fire-place of my headquarters at the McLean House,” he wrote in his diary. Perhaps the shell would have been more of a shock had it not been just one of many volleys in the first major campaign of the Civil War: the Battle of Bull Run.

The house belonged to a man named … [ Read all ]

Is West Virginia Constitutional?

Subpoena of West Virginia (Records of the Supreme Court, ARC 597545)

Subpoena of West Virginia (Records of the Supreme Court, ARC 597545)

On the creation of new states, the Constitution is pretty clear. Article IV, Section 3, reads that “no new States shall be formed or erected within the Jurisdiction of any other State … without the Consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned as well as of the Congress.”

It appears that someone forgot to tell West Virginia about this. In 1863, the Mountain State carved itself out of the northwestern corner of the Commonwealth of Virginia, raising the question: Is West Virginia unconstitutional?

Breaking up is never easy, especially when a Civil War is under way. While the Virginia government in Richmond seceded from the Union in the spring of 1861, up in the town of Wheeling, delegates from the northwestern part of the state got together to counter-secede. These delegates said the government in Richmond had no right to leave the Union, and as such they now constituted the state of Virginia. Thankfully, to keep things from getting too complicated, they agreed to call themselves New Virginia, or more fancifully, “The Restored Government of Virginia” (Kanawha was another name under consideration).

By 1862, through some questionable electoral processes, the “Restored Government of Virginia” had written up a new Constitution and applied for statehood. After a few edits—Lincoln insisted they insert a provision … [ Read all ]

FHF: The Beard Gap

Two beards have never competed for the office of the President. Pictured here is Rutherford Hayes, a bearded president who beat the clean-shaven Samuel Tilden (111-B-5739)

Two beards have never competed for the Presidency. Pictured here is Rutherford Hayes, a bearded President who beat the clean-shaven Samuel Tilden. (111-B-5739)




In the history of Presidential elections, there has never been a battle of the beards. Beards have challenged mustaches. Mustaches have challenged clean-shaven candidates. Clean-shaven candidates have challenged beards. But never in the history of our republic, have two bearded candidates duked it out on the campaign trail.

This is startling for many reasons. One, beards are awesome, and have experienced a sort of renaissance as of late. Two, statistically speaking, the beard is more “electable” than a baby face.

Look at the numbers. In Presidential elections, bearded candidates have only faced off (ha!) with clean-shaven candidates in five elections. In three of them—1868, 1872, and 1876—beards took the White House. That means the odds are with you if you run with a beard.

Year Victor Runner-up
1856 Clean-shaven Beards
1864 Beard Mustache
1868 Beard Clean-shaven
1872 Beard Clean-shaven
1876 Beard Clean-shaven
1880 Beard Mustache
1884 Mustache Beard
1888 Beard Mustache
1892 Mustache Beard
1908 Mustache Clean-shaven
1912 Clean-shaven Mustache
1916 Clean-shaven Beard
1944 Clean-shaven Mustache
1948 Clean-shaven Mustache



History buffs will be quick to point out that the 1876 beard win was something of a technicality. The oh-so-heavily bearded Rutherford Hayes lost the popular vote but won the electoral vote (Florida … [ Read all ]