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Page Two

In 1846, she began her campaign to establish the last Thursday in November as a national Thanksgiving Day. She wrote annual letters to the governor and senators as well as the President. She published articles in Godey's on Thanksgiving, focusing on such topics as recipes, decoration, and celebratory activities to create the ideal New England Thanksgiving. She wrote, "pie, which is formed of the choicest parts of fowls, enriched and seasoned by a profusion of butter and pepper, and covered with an excellent puff paste, is, like the celebrated pumpkin pie, an indispensable part of a good and true Yankee Thanksgiving."

As the nation expanded rapidly, it needed myths and legends that would unite the nation into one. George Washington was idealized into a hero for the new nation. Sarah Hale was helping to ensure that Thanksgiving would help create an unified holiday and a sense of a past by connecting everyone to the first Pilgrims.

In early times, Thanksgiving served as a day for political sermons on the Revolution and Federalism. Later, as the nation was poised for Civil War, it became a day for abolitionists and free-soilers to voice their views while others used it to argue keeping the nation united. As Sarah Hale wrote in 1859, "Seventy years ago, there were only about three millions of people under our flag; now it waves its protecting folds from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and nearly thirty million souls are enjoying its blessings. If every State should join in the union of thanksgiving on the 24th of this month, would it not be a renewed pledge of love and loyalty to the Constitution of the United States, which guarantees peace, prosperity, progress, and perpetuity to our great Republic."

By 1861, the nation was embroiled in Civil War. During the war, both the North and the South proclaimed days of Thanksgiving when important battles were won, serving as a day to further voice the region's political views. In 1864, towards the end of the war when the North was feeling confident it would end soon in their favor, Lincoln declared a Thanksgiving and ordered food to be brought to the troops along the front lines; an event described in The New York Times: "they took occasion to pick up and bear aloft on their bayonets all the turkeys, geese and chickens of Georgia to furnish themselves with a Thanksgiving feast to-day".

In 1865, President Johnson declared a national Thanksgiving. But, it was not celebrated nationally; Southerners and pro-slavery Westerners were reluctant to celebrate a Yankee holiday. As stated by Oran Roberts, governor of Texas, "It's a damned Yankee institution anyhow". During the Victorian era, despite the Yankee roots, Thanksgiving eventually became popular in the south and Godey's continued to teach the Southern women how to put on an exemplary traditional feast.

People began to go back to church but not purely for religious reasons; it was day to show one's finest new clothes of the season as one paraded down the avenue to the church and they still traveled home to be back with their family. After the railroad was built, every year there would be a plethora of people crowding the seats to make the cross-country voyage. These reunions were not confined to New England but occurred across the states.

In New York, Fantastical parades were held. The Fantasticals were men's organizations whose purpose was to dress up in outrageous costumes and parade around on Thanksgiving. The other organization unique to New York was the Target Company, a military club comprised of men from a higher class than the Fantasticals who dressed in military dress and set up targets to display their shooting prowess.

Throughout the rest of the country, military parades were held. Sports became a major pastime of the day and soon important football games were scheduled and some church services were set to end by 11:30 in order to make time for the game and the family meal.

Thanksgiving was even celebrated in the Wild West. Hunting wild game (buffalo, elk and prairie chicken) was the most important pastime of the day and balls were the favorite activity of the evening. Even Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid put on a lavish dinner and dance one-year for 30 guests to celebrate Thanksgiving. The menu included turkeys, pumpkin pies, and luxuries such as lettuce (not available in the winter), blue point oysters and Roquefort cheese. Local saloons offered free lunches of sliced turkey as long as the local cowboys paid for their own whiskey.

Victorian Americans were concerned the onslaught of immigrants would alter the character of America. Some felt that immigration should be prohibited altogether while others believed that immediate assimilation would take care of any future problems. They thought popularizing America's cultural history would accelerate the assimilation process. Books about colonial times became popular.

Architectural styles had been borrowed from Europe but now the American Colonial style was reaching its hay-day. Women's groups such as Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), Society of Mayflower Descendants and the Colonial Dames were founded in the early 1890's. Most people could join one of these groups, with the exception of the immigrants for they were too new. These groups set out to venerate the acts of the founders and early Americans so they could impart the importance of these people to the new immigrants and set an example of behavior. Thanksgiving was tailor-made for this purpose. The Puritans had fled persecution in Europe just as the new immigrants were doing, and according to the legend, Puritans were hard working, sober, and God-fearing people, exemplars of the right type of citizen. Public schools were essential for the dissemination of this Pilgrim worship. The students would grow up learning the importance of the first Thanksgiving and would encourage their parents to create a Thanksgiving celebration for their family like the rest of their schoolmates would be attending. As one schoolgirl, Pearl Kazin who emigrated from Odessa with her parents wrote after weeks of learning about the Pilgrims in school, "But Mama, why can't we have turkey for Thanksgiving like everybody else?"

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