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Home Front Friday: Franksgiving

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Home Front Friday is a regular series that highlights the can do spirit on the Home Front during World War II and illustrates how that spirit is still alive today!

We’d like to remind you all of the “Franksgiving” controversy that existed between 1939 and 1942. In 1939, after being pressured by retail executives, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an executive order that changed the date of Thanksgiving from the last Thursday in November to the third Thursday in November.

President Roosevelt Carving a Turkey on Thanksgiving, 1933. Retrieved from:   The National Archives Catalog.

President Roosevelt Carving a Turkey on Thanksgiving, 1933. Retrieved from: The National Archives Catalog.

The retail executives that pushed President Roosevelt to change Thanksgiving sought to increase revenue during the Holiday season. In 1939, Thanksgiving, if scheduled as the last Thursday of November, would have been the 30th. That would have left less than 30 shopping days before Christmas. Roosevelt agreed with the retail executives that 24 shopping days was not enough time, claiming his decision to sign an executive order, was to benefit the economy.

This decision caused uproar, for a variety of different reasons, among various different parties. The press, Republicans, and football fans alike all agreed that changing the date of Thanksgiving was kind of crazy. FDR’s former opponent, Alf London, said Roosevelt acted “with the omnipotence of a Hitler,” comparing him to the leader of the Third Reich.

Less than half of the states in the Union abided by Roosevelt’s executive order that year. In fact, several states, including Colorado, and Texas. After an early Thanksgiving in 1941 (November 20th), Roosevelt opted to change the date back to the fourth Thursday in November, not the final Thursday. The joint-resolution between Roosevelt and Congress stated that Thanksgiving cannot fall on November’s last two days—which is why Thanksgiving is traditionally between November 22 and 28th.

Posted by Catherine Perrone, Education Intern and Lauren Handley, Assistant Director of Education for Public Programs at The National WWII Museum. 

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