For a smile, do look at Thanksgiving through a West Wing lens.
In this episode, President Bartlet calls the Butterball Hotline:
Where are we going? From a fictitious president to the real ones who influenced Thanksgiving economics.
Thanksgiving became an official holiday because of Abraham Lincoln. Before that, George Washington said that November 26, 1789 would be a day for thanks and prayer. But it took until 1863 for Abraham Lincoln to declare that it was a national holiday.
Next, we have to wait roughly 70 years for Franklin Roosevelt to say that Thanksgiving should fall on the second to last Thursday of the month. Why? He wanted to increase the number of shopping days before Christmas. Somewhat agreeing, the Congress then resolved that the fourth Thursday in November would be a Thanksgiving holiday for all of us.
Meanwhile, the Thanksgiving turkey continued to get presidential recognition each year. But the big step was the pardon. George H.W. Bush gave the first official turkey pardon in 1989. Below, you can see his predecessor, Ronald Reagan, protecting himself from a 50+ pound turkey named RJ for Robust and Juicy:
Because of turkey pardons, the National Turkey Federation had to be sure that presidents were given sufficiently auspicious turkeys. Each year, a farmer is selected to raise the “presidential flock.” Protected from weather extremes in a barn, those chosen birds eat corn and soybeans and get used to music, loud noise, and flashing lights. When they arrive in Washington, they stay in what looks like an upscale hotel room, based on our featured image of this year’s winners–Bread and Butter.
Our Bottom Line: Adam Smith
On this Thanksgiving, let’s conclude with a thanks to Adam Smith. In 1776, he (unknowingly) explained how we could possibly produce hundreds of millions of turkeys. After all, no one tells consumers to buy them nor farmers to raise them. Instead, “the butcher, the brewer, or the baker” create supply because of their “own self interest.” Not caring as much about what we need, they respond to their own “advantages.”
And, for that reason, we have the Butterball Hotline.
My sources and more: Especially now, there are countless articles that touch Thanksgiving economics. For more on pardoned turkeys, you might want to go to this Washington Post article. Other possibilities range from Now I know and the Constitution Center to the National Turkey Federation, Smithsonian Magazine, and HowStuffWorks.
Have a happy holiday!