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Did You Know: Thanksgiving, TV Dinners and Mary’s Little Lamb

First Thanksgiving

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The first American Thanksgiving celebration on which our modern Thanksgiving is based was held at the Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts in 1621. It didn’t become a national holiday until 200 years later when Sarah Hale, author of Mary Had a Little Lamb, persuaded President Lincoln who make the last Thursday in November a national Thanksgiving holiday. Hale’s persistent dedication to this idea included  20 years of  lobbying five different presidents.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt tried to change the date to the second to last Thursday in November to extend the holiday shopping season in 1939 but it didn’t really catch on.  In 1939, some states celebrated Republican Thanksgiving on November 30 and others celebrated “Franksgiving” on November 23.  It continued like this for the next two years until Congress officially set the date as the fourth Thursday in November beginning in 1942.
Although not the first manufacturer to produce frozen dinners, in 1954, C.A. Swanson & Sons, a nationally recognized brand, developed its own frozen dinners, strategically advertising them as “TV dinners.”  Swanson’s first frozen dinner was a Thanksgiving feast of turkey, sweet potatoes, peas, and cornbread dressing.  The original tray was made of aluminum with items nestled in separate compartments and the meal had to be heated in an oven for about 25 minutes.
This post was originally published in 2015, and was written as part of the Nyack Library’s “Did You Know?” Series. 

Nyack People & Places, a weekly series that features photos and profiles of citizens and scenes near Nyack, NY, is sponsored by Sun River Health.

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