Discover more from The MCIMAPS Report
Issue #20: The Story of "Franksgiving"
In 1939, states rebelled against FDR's Thanksgiving date
Thanksgiving is back this year. People are traveling, seeing family, gathering together. We couldn’t do that in 2020. Well this year, if your vaxxed (get the damn shot), you get Turkey and pie!
But wait? Is tomorrow Thanksgiving? Or is it next week? Or was it last week? Believe it or not, this was a real issue in the late 1930s and early 1940s. Why was it an issue? Why else…. politics.
The Story of “Franksgiving”
I wrote about the saga of “Franksgiving” in my 2017 article, which I recommend for a far more in-depth look. The short story is, Thanksgiving has traditionally been the last Thursday of November. However, in 1939, as the country continued to wade its way through the Great Depression, the date fell on November 30th. Business owners worried that the short time between Thanksgiving and Christmas would lead to fewer presents purchases; and hence fewer $$$$ for companies that were relying on a holiday rush.
Taking this issue to heart, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt decided to declare November 23rd Thanksgiving.
Well, all hell, kinda, broke lose. Multiple states declared they would not move the date. Some reasons were partisan, others were more local. Namely, many states had their big college football rivalry games scheduled for what they presumed would be the traditional Thanksgiving date. This included southern Democratic states.
Opponents of the earlier date derided the the November 23rd as “Franksgiving.” While three states opted to celebrate both dates, the remaining 45 divided over the changed dates.
How these date decisions match with partisan control of the Governors (who were the ones to ultimately decide what might be a paid state holiday), show that many states did follow or not follow FDR, regardless of partisan affiliation.
Just a year later, the same issue arose again. A late holiday led to another FDR declaration, and another batch of states either deciding to go along with it or not.
Partisanship was never a perfect driver of the issue. See below how these states decided to celebrate Thanksgiving compared with their vote for President in 1940. The Willkie states split on the date, but FDR states were much more in favor.
The story repeated itself again in 1941. Many states balking at an earlier Thanksgiving, while others going along with the President.
Here is where we can see how Governor control could sometimes change the Thanksgiving dates. Five states saw partisan control change their Thanksgiving dates. Other states saw changes in dates but no changes in partisanship. Others changed partisanship but not in dates.
By this point the situation was untenable. Congressmen from the midwestern Turkey-producing states said that a uniform date was needed. With FDR’s blessing, Congressed passed a resolution that said the 4th Thursday of every November would be Thanksgiving. Most years this was the last Thursday; per tradition. But in cases of a 5th Thursday, Thanksgiving would remain on the 4th week. This offered a balance that easily passed.
For fun, here is where modern Turkey farms are located.
The resolution was first tested in 1944, which had a 5th Thursday. Most states stuck with the agreed date, but a handful of states remained celebrating the end of the month instead. Most of the reasons cited were simple - tradition and/or football.
There were a handful of conflicting dates in years to come, but by the 1950s everyone was on the same page. Read my original article for more details.
See the full 1939-1941 data set below!
That’s all for this week.
PS: Pumpkin pie is the best pie.