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Congress Establishes Thanksgiving

6 October 1941

Washington, DC…On October 3, 1789, President George Washington issued a proclamation naming Thursday, November 26, 1789 as an official holiday of "sincere and humble thanks." The nation then celebrated its first Thanksgiving under its new Constitution. On October 3, 1863, President Lincoln made the traditional Thanksgiving celebration a nationwide holiday to be commemorated each year on the fourth Thursday of November. In the midst of a bloody Civil War, President Lincoln issued a Presidential Proclamation in which he enumerated the blessings of the American people and called upon his countrymen to "set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of "Thanksgiving." 
In 1939 President Franklin D. Roosevelt moved the holiday to the third Thursday of November to lengthen the Christmas shopping season and boost the economy still recovering from the Depression. This move, which set off a national debate, was reversed in 1941 when Congress passed and President Roosevelt approved a joint house resolution establishing, by law, the fourth Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day. [National Archives]

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H.J. Res 41


Making the last Thursday in November a legal holiday.

1. Resolved by the Senate and the House of Representatives
2. of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
3. That the last Thursday of November in each year after the
4. year 1941 be known as Thanksgiving Day, and is hereby
5. made a legal public holiday to all intents and purposes and
6. in the same manner as the 1st day of January, the 22nd day
7. of February, the 30th day of May, the 4th day of July, the
8. first Monday of September, the 11th day of November, and
9. Christmas Day are now made by law public holidays.

Passed the House of Representatives October 6, 1941