Ten Records We're Thankful to Have at the National Archives

Thanksgiving is an anticipated time of year…unless you’re a turkey!  While our traditions today may not even include the iconic bird (hello, Tofurkey!), this holiday is still cherished as a time to gather with friends and family and give thanks.  But before you start setting the table, enjoy a “harvest” of some of our favorite Thanksgiving records!


Thanksgiving turkeys have been granted a presidential pardon as early as President Lincoln, and it is a White House tradition that is still enjoyed in the modern day:

The President Receives Thanksgiving Turkey from Poultry and Egg National Board, Accompanied by Senator Everett M. Dirkson , 11/19/1963
The President Receives Thanksgiving Turkey from Poultry and Egg National Board, Accompanied by Senator Everett M. Dirkson , 11/19/1963. NARA ID 6817149


Though some turkeys granted an audience with the President had seen better days:

Photograph of Sen. Olin Johnston of South Carolina presenting President Truman with a turkey from Wilton E. Hall of Anderson, South Carolina, as Colonel Lewis Jackson looks on., 11/25/1946. NARA ID 199536


And some turkeys, feeling the heat of the kitchen, attempted to escape!:

output_fFWO7r (1)
President Reagan Attending Ceremonies to Receive the Annual Thanksgiving Turkey from Representatives of the National Turkey Federation on the South Lawn, ca. 1985. NARA IDs 6728685, 6919294, and 6919300

In the mood for more fowl hijinks?  Check out the Thanksgiving set on Flickr.

Outside of the White House, Thanksgiving is a tradition observed by Americans everywhere:

Photograph of President George H. W. Bush Enjoying Thanksgiving Dinner with Troops, 11/22/1990. NARA ID 186423


How many people do you have coming over for dinner?  I bet you’re not making a vat of sweet potatoes like this “pilgrim:”

A mess management specialist helps prepare Thanksgiving dinner aboard the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS CARL VINSON (CVN 70), 11/24/1984. NARA ID 6393176


The Thanksgiving menu is often deeply rooted in tradition and certain merits can be hotly debated.  But do you have room on your table for Consomme and Braised Celery?

White House Menu, 11/25/1948. NARA ID 6882375

Do you have a hankering for more presidential noms?  Don’t forget to follow OurPresidents on Tumblr and see what the White House has cooked up for the holidays!


This video clip certainly brings new meaning to “dressing the turkey:”

And this is certainly not your typical Thanksgiving Day Parade:

Working up an appetite for Thursday? Check out this playlist of other Thanksgiving-themed films recently digitized by our Motion Picture Preservation Lab.

Wild turkeys can fly, and we often see them feeding on the ground, but sometimes they even find themselves out to sea:

Arabian Sea. A mess management specialist slices a turkey for Thanksgiving dinner aboard the amphibious assault ship USS OKINAWA (LPH 3), 11/26/1987. NARA ID 6432428


Sometimes we have a hard time squeezing in watching football and eating dinner, but this airman has holiday multitasking down to a science:

An air controlman airman eats his Thanksgiving dinner while keeping an eye on the radar scope in the helicopter direction center aboard the amphibious assault ship USS OKINAWA (LPH 3), 11/26/1987. NARA ID 6430796


But no matter where you are, Thanksgiving is a time to spend time with those you love, and enjoy a good meal:

28-0852a (1)
Thanksgiving cheer distributed for men in service. New York City turned host to the boys in service today and cared for every man in uniform. Underwood and Underwood., ca. 1918. NARA ID 533729

What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving?  Let us know in the comments!


4 thoughts on “Ten Records We're Thankful to Have at the National Archives

  1. I’m grateful NARA is allowing increasingly easy access to the archives, such as these videos on YouTube. Thanks, and a Happy Thanksgiving to you! Great blog posting.

  2. Thank you for posting the pictures of the USS Okinawa (LPH-3) Thanksgiving. The Okinawa had just relieved my ship, USS Guadalcanal (LPH-7) from arduous mine countermeasures work in the Persian Gulf only 11 days before, and Thanksgiving 1987 found the Guad slowly making its way across the Mediterranean back to our homeport of Norfolk, Virginia. I was a most thankful young officer and husband of three years back then.

  3. I enjoy seeing material the public would not
    normally have access to. It “humanizes” NARA & gives the public a taste of what might be found if they took the time to look. Keep’em coming!!

Leave a Reply to Kim LaCoste Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *