Nov 30, 2019

Presidential Turkey Pardon

The presidential turkey pardon tradition might have stemmed from Abraham Lincoln, who made Thanksgiving an official U.S. holiday in 1863. According to White House reporter Noah Brooks, Lincoln’s son Tad got upset when he found out someone was going to kill the live turkey that had been brought for the presidential family’s Christmas dinner in 1865. Eventually, the turkey’s life was spared.

The first president to throw a ceremony rescuing a bird from being doomed to the Thanksgiving table may be John F. Kennedy in 1963, according to the White House Historical Association. That year, the turkey had a “Good Eating, Mr. President!” sign around its neck. Reportedly, JFK said, “We’ll just let this one grow,” and had the bird sent back to the farm. The Los Angeles Times ran an article about the event calling it a “presidential pardon” so the presidential turkey pardon tradition began.

Incidentally, though the residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is painted white, it was known as the Executive Mansion and the President’s Palace until October 1901, when President Theodore Roosevelt referred to it as the White House. He made the name official when he had it engraved on his stationery.

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