From the Archives: The Thanksgiving holiday was born in a time of hardship

 Evening Tribune front page on Nov. 24, 1932
Thanksgiving day front page of the Evening Tribune on Nov. 24, 1932, during the Great Depression.

The country was in the middle of the Civil War in 1863 when President Abraham Lincoln — at the urging of “Ladies Magazine” editor Sarah Josepha Hale — formally established Thanksgiving as a national holiday. Lincoln issued his proclamation of a national day of Thanksgiving on Oct. 3, 1863, just three months after Union Army victory at the Battle of Gettysburg

Thanksgiving was intended as a time to appreciate and reflect upon life’s blessings, but also as a time to “heal the wounds of the nation” and to restore it to the “full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.”

Over the years since then, the Thanksgiving holiday has been celebrated as much in times of hardship as well as plenty, as illustrated by this editorial published in 1932 during the Great Depression.

From The Evening Tribune, Thursday, November 24, 1932:


Day of Thanks

We return our national thanksgiving today in a time of difficulty, at what we hope is the beginning of the end of a long trouble.

Our thanks are not for the trial itself, or for whatever things of value may have come out of it — they have been too dearly brought. We give thanks for what has survived, what we have saved ore earned, for wat we have a right now to hope.

newspaper page
November 24, 1932, “Day of Thanks” editorial published in the Evening Tribune.

In giving thanks for our survival of a world-wide calamity, we must describe gratitude without complacency or false pride. We are winning our way through, but not by any grace of perfection.

Yet it is in the full tide of battle, striving to do our best and thereby overcome our worst, that it is most needful to look directly at these faults of ours. Today, in a time of thanksgiving, it is right and profitable to consider our assets and our hopes of security. These are great. They justify gratitude and should inspire it.

First and foremost, let it be recorded gratefully that our people, millions of them encountering a hardship not known before our time, have shown qualities that all the usual words fail to describe.

There have been hesitations, failures — some outright stupidity and some ill faith — in high places. Among the men and women of the country at large, there have been courage, self-sacrifice, endurance. Among them there has been an unfailing loyalty to our common good, and our enduring republic. Due to them, we have gone through this trial with no overwhelming counsel of despair, no major violence, no sign or omen of collapse. Because of them, we march now on the road to recovery.

This republic today continues to fight its way through the greatest of its economic disasters — and it is winning its fight.


Soberly, honestly, with eyes open but fearless, we give thanks for a national steadfastness and a national courage. Our need of them is a bitter thing, making this day tragic for millions of our fellow-men. But those qualities are here. We have seen them in action. They are our hope for the future, and the profoundest cause of thanksgiving for today.