Our thanks to Peter Wisbey, former Executive Director of the Seward House in Auburn, New York, who has contributed a three-part article on Holiday Traditions in the 19th Century. This post was originally published on our former blog on November 14, 2008.
Thanksgiving in the 19th Century
While people have celebrated the harvest for thousands of years, the national practice of Thanksgiving is relatively recent. As governor of New York from 1839 to 1843, Seward proclaimed a series of state Thanksgiving celebrations. Each state governor had the authority to proclaim a Thanksgiving Day. Twenty years later however, in 1863, as Secretary of State, Seward suggested to President Abraham Lincoln that Thanksgiving become a national holiday. In the midst of the Civil War, both Seward and Lincoln knew that Americans needed a day for prayer and renewal. The proclamation, written by William Seward, was signed by Lincoln and established the national Thanksgiving holiday on the last Thursday of November.
The Seward house is located at 33 South Street in Auburn. For more information about the museum, hours of operation and special events for the holidays, please call 315-252-1283 or visit the Seward House online.
Photos courtesy of The Seward House.