Thanksgiving postcard to Fannie Hill, 1919. Creator unknown. Postcard, Bequest of Alfred Guthe and Norbert Riedel, 19126.96.36.199
Modern American legend holds the Pilgrims at Plymouth celebrated the first Thanksgiving in 1621, but the continent witnessed the first European Thanksgiving service in 1578 in Newfoundland—and Native American harvest celebrations like the Cherokee Green Corn Dance predated them all. During the Civil War, after the Union victory at Gettysburg in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln declared the fourth Thursday of November a national Thanksgiving Day. Following the Great War, President Woodrow Wilson’s 1919 Thanksgiving Proclamation urged Americans: “with a . . . spirit of unselfishness we should strive to aid by our example and by our cooperation in realizing the enduring welfare of all peoples and bringing into being a world ruled by friendship and good will.” This lovely autumnal postcard to Fannie Hill, sent that year, exemplifies the Thanksgiving imagery many Americans enjoy today.