Thanksgiving Days in Iowa, 1939-1941

If you enjoy stuffing yourself silly with turkey and all the trimmings at a Thanksgiving meal, you would have been just ecstatic in 1939. Things had been running fairly smoothly since President Lincoln declared in 1863 that a national “day of thanksgiving and praise” would be on the last Thursday of November. In 1939, President Franklin Roosevelt decided that businesses needed more time for shopping between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and declared the fourth (instead of the fifth) Thursday in November as the official federal observation of Thanksgiving. In 1940 and 1941, it fell on the third Thursday. Iowa’s Republican governor at the time, George A. Wilson, stuck with the traditional date, however, which led to most (but not all) federal and
state offices being closed both days. The Des Moines City Council also wrestled with the discrepancy, ultimately deciding to go along with Governor Wilson’s date. Congress settled the matter by ruling that after 1941, the fourth Thursday of November would be observed as the legal federal holiday.

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