By 1852, Hale's campaign succeeded in uniting 29 states in marking the last Thursday of November as "Thanksgiving Day."
Finally, after a 40-year campaign of writing editorials and letters to governors and presidents, Hale's passion became a reality. On September 28, 1863, Sarah Josepha Hale wrote a letter to President Lincoln and urged him to have the "day of our annual Thanksgiving made a National and fixed Union Festival." On October 3, 1863, President Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday in November as a national day "of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father." Here is the text of Lincoln's proclamation:
By the President of the United States of America.
The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.8
Lincoln issued a similar proclamation in 1864. U.S. presidents maintained the holiday on the last Thursday of November for 75 years (with the exception of Andrew Johnson designating the first Thursday in December as Thanksgiving Day 1865 and Ulysses Grant choosing the third Thursday for Thanksgiving Day 1869).
In 1939, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt declare the next-to-last Thursday of the month (November 23rd) to be Thanksgiving Day. This break with tradition was prompted by requests from the National Retail Dry Goods Association. Since 1939 had five Thursdays in November, this would create a longer Christmas shopping season. While governors usually followed the president's lead with state proclamations for the same day, on this year, twenty-three states observed Thanksgiving Day on November 23rd, the "Democratic" Thanksgiving. Twenty-three states celebrated on November 30th, Lincoln's "Republican" Thanksgiving. Texas and Colorado declared both Thursdays to be holidays.
After two years of public outcry and confusion, Congress introduced the legislation to ensure that future presidential proclamations could not impact the scheduling of the holiday.. They established Thanksgiving Day as the fourth Thursday in November. The legislation took effect in 1942. Their plan to designate the fourth Thursday of the month allowed Thanksgiving Day to fall on the last Thursday five out of seven years.
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The Great Gildersleeve (1941-1957) was arguably the first spin-off program, as well as one of the first true situation comedies (as opposed to sketch programs) in broadcast history. Built around a character who had been a staple on the classic radio sit-com, Fibber McGee and Molly, The Great Gildersleeve enjoyed its greatest success in the 1940s. Actor Harold Peary played the character during its transition from the parent show into the spin-off, and later in a quartet of feature films released at the height of the show's popularity.
On Fibber McGee and Molly, Peary's Gildersleeve was a pompous windbag who became a consistent McGee nemesis ("You're a haa-aa-aa-aard man, McGee!" became a Gildersleeve catch phrase). But he also became a popular enough windbag that Kraft Foods — looking primarily to promote its Parkay margarine spread — sponsored a new series with Peary's Throckmorton P. Gildersleeve (the character was given several conflicting first names on Fibber McGee and Molly) as the central, slightly softened, and slightly befuddled focus of a lively new family.
Premiering on NBC on August 31, 1941, The Great Gildersleeve moved the title character from the McGee's Wistful Vista to Summerfield, where Gildersleeve now oversaw his late sister's estate and took on the rearing of his orphaned niece and nephew, Marjorie (originally played by Lurene Tuttle and followed by Louise Erickson and Mary Lee Robb) and Leroy (Walter Tetley) Forester. In a striking forerunner to such later television hits as Bachelor Father and Family Affair, both of which are centered on well-to-do uncles taking in their deceased siblings' children, Gildersleeve was a bachelor raising two children while, at first, administering a girdle manufacturing company ("If you want a better corset, of course it's a Gildersleeve") and then for the bulk of the show's run, serving as Summerfield's water commissioner, between time with the ladies and nights with the boys. Indeed, The Great Gildersleeve may have been the first broadcast show to be centered on a single parent balancing child-rearing, work, and a social life, done with taste and genuine wit, often at the expense of Gildersleeve's now slightly understated pomposity
The Great Gildersleeve
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