Thanksgiving Timeline

1541: During Coronado's expedition a Eucharistic thanksgiving, with the friendly Teya Indians present, occurred in Palo Duro Canyon in West Texas.

1621: Pilgrims and Native Americans enjoyed a harvest feast in Plymouth, Massachusetts. This feast may have become the model for today's American celebration.

1630: Settlers and colonists from many continents brought customs of days of prayer and thanksgiving, especially in New England, where the first Thanksgiving of the Massachusetts Bay Colony was observed on July 8, 1630.

1777: The first Thanksgiving of the new United States of America occurred in 1777 when General George Washington and his army, as instructed by the Continental Congress, stopped in bitter weather in the open fields on their way to Valley Forge to mark the occasion.

1789: Washington's first proclamation after his inauguration as the nation's first president in 1789 declared November 26, 1789, as a national day of "thanksgiving and prayer."

1800s: The annual presidential thanksgiving proclamations ceased for 45 years in the early 1800s.

1863: President Abraham Lincoln resumed the tradition in 1863.

November 26, 1941: President Roosevelt signed the bill establishing the fourth Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day. Because two years out of every seven have five Thursdays in November, some states for the next 15 years celebrated on their own on the last Thursday. Since 1956, the fourth Thursday in November has been observed by every state.