History of Thanksgiving

History of Thanksgiving

The tradition of celebrating thanks dates back nearly 400 years to a three-day harvest festival celebrated in 1621 by the pilgrims and Native Americans at Plymouth, Massachusetts.

President George Washington issued the first national Thanksgiving proclamation in 1789, the year of his inauguration, and again in 1795. On Oct. 3, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln declared a national day of Thanksgiving to be observed on the last Thursday in November, and every president after Lincoln followed suit. In 1941, a joint congressional resolution officially set the date as the fourth Thursday in November.

The Hallmark Archives contain Thanksgiving cards that date back to the late 1800s, but Thanksgiving cards were not widely exchanged until the end of World War I.

Inspired? Create and share with #hallmark.

  • 1910s
    In Hallmark’s early years, the turkey illustrations were traditional and so were the sentiments.
    Hallmark Thanksgiving cards through the years: 1910s
  • 1910s
    The turkey was almost as big as the young chef presenting it in this early Thanksgiving postcard.
    Hallmark Thanksgiving cards through the years: 1910s
  • 1910s
    Overeating must have been just as much a part of the Thanksgiving tradition early in the 20th century as it is in the 21st.
    Hallmark Thanksgiving cards through the years: 1910s
  • 1920s
    Wonder what the turkey thought about the breaking of the wishbone…
    Hallmark Thanksgiving cards through the years: 1920s
  • 1930s
    Better hurry! That turkey isn’t going to last long…
    Hallmark Thanksgiving cards through the years: 1930s
  • 1930s
    Instead of a turkey, a little birdie shares Thanksgiving wishes in this Depression-era greeting.
    Hallmark Thanksgiving cards through the years: 1930s
  • 1940s
    This hearty bird offered very formal best wishes for a happy Thanksgiving.
    Hallmark Thanksgiving cards through the years: 1940s
  • 1940s
    A turkey-riding elf brings Thanksgiving wishes to a secret pal.
    Hallmark Thanksgiving cards through the years: 1940s
  • 1960s
    Greetings to a nephew feature a more casual and cartoonish gobbler.
    Hallmark Thanksgiving cards through the years: 1960s
  • 1960s
    Groovy Tom Turkey suggests sending out for a pizza in this contemporary-style greeting.
    Hallmark Thanksgiving cards through the years: 1960s
  • 1970s
    Too cute to eat was this friendly gobbler.
    Hallmark Thanksgiving cards through the years: 1970s
  • 1980s
    “He wanted to send you a Thanksgiving card with a picture of a woman in a skimpy bikini. I wanted to send you one with a picture of a cute funny animal. So we compromised,” reads the front of a card with a bikini-clad bird.
    Hallmark Thanksgiving cards through the years: 1980s
  • 1990s
    T-shirts tell the story of a turkey’s ideal Thanksgiving.
    Hallmark Thanksgiving cards through the years: 1990s
  • 2000s
    You can almost smell it roasting…
    Hallmark Thanksgiving cards through the years: 2000s
  • 2000s
    This card gave a whole new meaning to stuffing.
    Hallmark Thanksgiving cards through the years: 2000s
  • 2000s
    “Never ‘wing’ the saying of grace.” But with a full range of cards, there’s no need to guess at how to say “Happy Thanksgiving!”
    Hallmark Thanksgiving cards through the years: 2000s

Shop Thanskgiving gifts

See all