Thanksgiving Timeline, 1541 - 2001
August, 1939

In 1939, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt declared November 23rd, the next-to-last Thursday of the month, to be Thanksgiving Day. This break with tradition was prompted by requests from the National Retail Dry Goods Association to extend the Christmas shopping season by one week. Roosevelt had rejected the association's similar request in 1933 on the grounds that such change might cause confusion. The President's 1939 proclamation proved him more right than he probably would have liked.

As always, the president's 1939 proclamation only directly applied to the District of Columbia and federal employees. While governors usually followed the president's lead with state proclamations for the same day, on this year, twenty-three states observed Thanksgiving Day on November 23rd, twenty-three states celebrated on November 30th, and Texas and Colorado declared both Thursdays to be holidays. Football coaches scrambled to reschedule games set for November 30th, families didn't know when to have their holiday meals, calendars were inaccurate in half of the country, and people weren't sure when to start their Christmas shopping. The nation was again divided over the date of Thanksgiving Day in 1940.

Three-Quarter View of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Facing Left, in Suit and Tie
A Portrait of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
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