Thursday, November 28, 2019

U.S. Census Bureau History: Thanksgiving

By Native News Online Staff - November 28, 2019 at 12:00AM

In the fall of 1621, 53 Pilgrims celebrated their first feast of thanksgiving at the Plymouth Colony with American Indian Chief Massasoit and 90 members of his nearby Wampanoag Indian Link to a non-federal Web site village. In 2010, the number of people reporting they were Wampanoag alone or in any combination with another race or tribe was 6,500. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Thanksgiving 2019

Published November 28, 2019

WASHINGTON — On November 28, 2019, the United States celebrates Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is a time for families and friends to gather, enjoy a meal together, watch football, participate in charitable events, and begin the holiday shopping season.

Throughout the late 1800s and early 1900s, U.S. presidents proclaimed days of Thanksgiving each year on the last Thursday of November. In 1939, with the nation in the grip of the Great Depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt moved the holiday earlier in the month (proclamation 2373) to benefit retailers who hoped Americans would spend more money if given additional time to shop for the holidays. While 32 states recognized Roosevelt’s earlier Thanksgiving date, 16 refused to acknowledge the president’s proclamation. For 2 years, Americans had a choice of two Thanksgiving days. On October 6, 1941, Congress passed a joint resolution declaring the last Thursday of November to be the nation’s legal Thanksgiving Day. The U.S. Senate amended the resolution on December 9 establishing the holiday on the fourth Thursday of November to take into account those years when the month had five Thursdays. The House of Representatives agreed to the amendment, and President Roosevelt signed the resolution on December 26, 1941.

Today, our Thanksgiving holiday celebrations reflect our nation’s increasingly diverse population. Feasts may include turkey, ham, or roast beef; Italian aranchini, Mexican chile relleno, Indian chicken vindaloo, or Vietnamese bun cha; and a cornucopia of side dishes, vegetables, breads, and desserts. You can learn more about the history of Thanksgiving and how we celebrate the holiday using census data and records. For example:

  • Following the 2017 Census of Agriculture, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that the United States was home to 2,042,220 farms from which $1,000 or more of agricultural products were produced and sold, or would normally be sold during the year. Among these farms are the 74,276 vegetable farms producing our Thanksgiving meals’ traditional “fixings” including: 16,554 potato and 4,798 sweet potato farms; 8,471 carrot growers; 6,012 farms growing green peas; 20,784 farms growing sweet corn; 22,704 squash growers. Some of the fruits and nuts for our desserts are supplied by the nation’s 19,008 pecan7,532 English walnut, and 26,408 apple orchards.
  • Do you prefer to have someone else prepare your Thanksgiving dinner or dessert? Many families will celebrate Thanksgiving at one of the nation’s 517,908 restaurants and other eating places (NAICS 7225) that participated in the 2012 Economic Census. Other families may serve desserts prepared by one of the nation’s 6,339 retail (NAICS 311811) or 2,342 commercial (NAICS 311812) bakeries; 210 frozen cakes, pie, and other pastry manufacturers (NAICS 311813); or 301 cookie and cracker manufacturing establishments (NAICS 311821).
  • Thanksgiving roadtrips have improved greatly since motorists spent hours driving their early automobiles along the rough and muddy roads that linked cities and towns in the first decades of the 20th century. In 2018, the American Automobile Association estimated that more than 54 million Link to a non-federal Web site Americans traveled to visit family and friends for Thanksgiving. The majority of these travelers planned trips in one or more of the nation’s 111 million registered automobiles or 983,232 buses that plied routes along more than 4.1 million miles of public roadways.
  • After dinner and dessert, many households gather around the television to watch Thanksgiving Day football games. The census first asked households if they owned a television set during the 1950 Census. In that year, just 9 percent of households owned a television. That number grew to 65 percent in 1960, and 87 percent in 1970. Since 1998, nearly 99 percent of all households in the United States owned at least one television.
  • Once Thanksgiving dinner is finished, many Americans visit favorite retail stores to begin holiday shopping. In 2018, the National Retail Federation reported that more than 165 million Link to a non-federal Web site Americans shopped either in stores or online between Thanksgiving Day (November 22) and “Cyber Monday” (November 26). During the November and December holiday shopping period, retail sales totaled $707.5 billion Link to a non-federal Web site.
  • The U.S. Census Bureau made its first inquiries about households’ Internet access in the 1997 Current Population Survey. At that time, 18 percent of American households had Internet access. In 2017, data from the American Community Survey estimated that 82.1 percent of households in the United States had a computer and access to the Internet. One year later, the National Retail Federation reported that American’s used those Internet connections to spend $146.8 billion Link to a non-federal Web site online and via other nonstore sales during the November–December 2018 holiday shopping season.

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