Thanksgiving Timeline, 1541 - 2001
October, 1621

The Pilgrims at Plymouth Colony celebrated the autumn harvest with a three-day feast. Governor William Bradford invited the chief of the Wampanoag tribe, Massasoit, to join the fifty colonists who had survived the harsh winter. The Native American leader brought ninety of his tribesmen to the feast.

The celebration included athletic contests, a military review led by Miles Standish, and a feast on foods such as wild turkeys, duck, geese, venison, lobsters, clams, bass, corn, green vegetables, and dried fruits. In 1841, Dr. Alexander Young contended that this harvest celebration was the "first Thanksgiving," and the origin of an American tradition. This interpretation gained such widespread acceptance that other contenders for the distinction faded into obscurity.

Puritan Woman Serving Food to a Native American Sitting Cross-Legged on the Ground, Surrounded by Others
A Detail of a Photographic Reproduction of J.L.G. Ferris's Early-20th Century Painting, "First Thanksgiving."
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