November 26 is without a doubt, most well-known for hosting the first-ever Thanksgiving holiday in America, but that’s not all that’s happened on this day in history. Read on, and learn about some of the most important and intriguing events that have taken place on this day.
November 26, 1789 – The First Official National Thanksgiving Takes Place In America
Undoubtedly, the most well-recognized and important historical event that happened on November 26 was the first incarnation of the National Thanksgiving holiday – which was the basis for the now nationally-celebrated holiday.
As president, George Washington delivered an address on October 3, 1789, which declared the first national Thanksgiving to be celebrated on November 26, 1789. Before this, Thanksgiving was often celebrated by different ethnic groups in different parts of the country on different days.
While Thanksgiving may first have been celebrated nationally in 1789, it was a widespread holiday before then, with a long history. Fall feasts to celebrate the harvest were commonplace in America as early as the 1620s, when feasts were held at Plymouth Plantation.
The holiday that we now recognize as Thanksgiving first took place at Plymouth Plantation in 1621. The Pilgrims had come to the land and found it nearly abandoned, as the local Patuxet Indians had all died in a plague.
After a long and bitter winter of 1920-21, the last surviving Patuxet Indian, known as Squanto, who had learned English in Europe, visited the Pilgrims at the request of Samoset, the first Native American to encounter the Pilgrim settlers in Plymouth.
Squanto then began teaching the Pilgrims how to survive. He showed them how to catch eel, a plentiful local food, and how to grow corn properly. Though he succumbed to the plague a year later, Squanto was instrumental in helping the English Pilgrims adapt to the new land.
That year, during the harvest of 1621, the Pilgrims celebrated their harvest for three days – while the exact date is unknown, historians believe that this took place between September 21 and November 11, 1621, with the most likely day being Sept. 29, also known as The Feast of St. Michael or Michaelmas.
Following this feast, yearly feasts became a popular tradition among the Pilgrims, with feasts being held in 1623 and onward. Throughout the forthcoming centuries, Thanksgiving was regularly celebrated each year – but the time and date often varied until 1789, when George Washington made November 26 the first official National Thanksgiving holiday.
Interestingly, though, Thanksgiving continued to be celebrated on different days each year – until 1863, when Lincoln again established November 26th, the final Thursday of the month, to be Thanksgiving each year.
This tradition continued until 1939, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt broke with tradition, and declared Thanksgiving to be the fourth Thursday of the month – as the month of November in 1939 had five Thursdays, rather than four. In 1942, this change was made official with a joint resolution by Congress, which established Thanksgiving as being observed on the fourth Thursday of November.
Observations And Celebrations
Thanksgiving is one of the largest holidays in America, perhaps superseded only by Christmas. The Thanksgiving holiday is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November, so the date changes each year.
During this time, almost every city, town and community in America observes Thanksgiving Day. It is a public holiday in the US, and events such as parades, community festivals, and group dinners are quite common. The most famous such event is the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, which takes place in New York City, and is televised across the United States and the rest of the world.
Families typically celebrate with turkey dinner, which means that Thanksgiving is one of the days of the year where worldwide turkey consumption is the largest. 88% of people eat turkey on Thanksgiving, with an estimated total of 44 million turkeys being consumed each year. In addition to turkey, traditional foods include corn stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, and green bean casserole.
Thanksgiving is often also a time when nonprofits, like the Salvation Army, run funding drives for those who are in need, in keeping with the spirit of the holiday. Other more recent traditions for Thanksgiving include the running of 5k and 10k races, as well as watching NFL games on television – which has been a yearly tradition since 1978.
Another unique tradition is the yearly “Pardoning of the Turkey.” In this tongue-in-cheek celebration, the President “pardons” a turkey, allowing it to live, a nod to the common consumption of turkey around the holiday. This tradition was first begun by President George H.W. Bush.
Other Famous Events On This Day In History
1865: Lewis Carrol’s “Alice In Wonderland” Published In America
Alice In Wonderland is regarded as one of the most influential fantasy novels in the world. The novel, which features the character Alice falling through a rabbit hole into a fantasy world inhabited by anthropomorphic creatures, was first published in America on November 26, 1865.
It was written by Lewis Carrol, which was the pseudonym of English author Charles Lutwidge Dodgson. The book, which combined literary elements with whimsical fantasy, quickly became a hit among both children and adults. Carroll would continue writing with titles like “Through The Looking Glass,” and the well-known poem “The Jabberwocky.”
1922: Egyptologist Howard Carter Opens The Tomb Of King Tutankhamun
In one of the most groundbreaking finds in the history of Egyptology, archeologist Howard Carter first opened the tomb of King Tutankhamun on November 26, 1922. Carter first discovered the tomb – then known as KV62 – in the Valley of the Kings, where numerous pharaohs and other Egyptian Nobles were buried.
The search for the tomb was sponsored by George Herbert, 5th Earl of Carnarvon. While the tomb was found in November of 1922, the burial chamber itself was not opened up until 16 February, 1923. Inside, nearly 5,400 items were found, as well as the mummy of “King Tut” himself. The tomb was completely unspoiled by grave robbers – a common issue in previously-discovered tombs, and is considered to be one of the most important finds in Egypt. It’s also credited with renewing public interest in the West about Egyptian history and mythology.
1917: The NHL Is Founded, The NHA Suspends Operations
In 1917, the National Hockey League was founded in Montreal, Canada with the Toronto Arenas, Ottowa Senators, Quebec Bulldogs, Montreal Canadiens, and Montreal Maroons. It immediately took the place of the National Hockey Association (NHA) which was founded in 1909 in Renfrew, Ontario. The NHA suspended its operations, and would cease to exist in 1918.’
Today, the NHL comprises 31 teams in both Canada and the United States, and the NHL’s Stanley Cup, which has been awarded to the winner of the league every season since 1917, is the oldest professional sports trophy in North America.
1942: Casablanca Premieres At The Hollywood Theater, NYC
Casablanca, starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, was based on an unproduced stage play by Murray Burnett and Joan Alison. It first premiered at The Hollywood Theater, NYC, on November 26, 1942. After its premiere, it received a wide release in January, 1943. Although it had a solid film run, it was not a spectacular commercial success during its initial release.
However, the film was critically adored, won the Academy Award for Best Picture, as well as the award for Best Director and Best Screenplay. In the following decades, Casablanca has become recognized as one of the greatest films of all time, was one of the first 25 films inducted by the United States National Film Registry in 1989.
1983: Brink’s-Mat Robbery, “The World’s Greatest Robbery” Occurs At Heathrow Airport
On November 1983 at the Brink’s-Mat Warehouse in Heathrow Airport, the Brink’s-Mat robbery – widely regarded as one of the largest and most successful heists in history – occurred. Six robbers broke into the warehouse in the early hours of the morning, threatening staff members by pouring gas over them and waving lit matches.
The staff revealed the combination to the vaults. The robbers, who expected to find about £3.2 million in cash in the vault, were surprised to find more than 3,000 kilograms of gold, as well as a large stock of diamonds. In the end, they escaped with £26 million in gold, diamonds, cash and other materials.
In 2019 US Dollars, that’s equivalent to about $108 million – making this the most successful and highest-value robbery of all time. Two men, Brian Robinson and Kenneth Noye, were convicted of crimes related to the robbery – but the bulk of the gold has never been found.
Famous Birthdays On November 26
1861: Albert B. Fall
Albert B. Fall, who served as the Secretary of the Interior under President Warren G. Harding, was born in Frankfort, Kentucky on November 26, 1861. As a young man, he moved to the West due to his respiratory health issues, and then became a lawyer and was elected to the New Mexico House of Representatives, then became a Senator for New Mexico.
In 1921, he was appointed the Secretary of the Interior. He is most infamous for his involvement in the “Teapot Dome” scandal, where he accepted bribes from his two friends, oilmen Harry F. Sinclair, and Edward L. Doheny to drill the Naval Reserves of Elk Hill, California without bidding. He was found guilty of conspiracy and bribery, and sentenced to a year in prison for his misconduct.
1876: Willis Carrier
On this day in history in 1876, Willis Carrier – the father of modern air conditioning – was born. He was born in Angola, New York, and in 1902, as a response to an air quality problem at the Sackett-Wilhelms Lithographing & Publishing Company, he developed the world’s first air conditioning system, which included humidity controls.
He later worked at the Buffalo Forge Company for 12 years. Then, in 1915, he pooled his life savings with six of his engineer friends to form the Carrier Engineering Corporation, which focused on the development and manufacturing of air conditioning units. Today, Carrier is still one of the largest such companies in the world, employing 45,000 employees, with a value of more than $12.5 billion.
1898: Karl Ziegler
The Nobel Prize-winning chemist, Karl Ziegler, was born on this day in 1898 in Helsa, near Kassel in the German Empire. He is well known for his chemical experiments on free radicals, polymers, and organometallic compounds, and was a critical contributor to the development of synthetic materials, most notably polyethylene, which is still one of the most commonly used plastics today. He is also known as one of the founders of the German Chemical Society.
1922: Charles M. Schulz
Charles M. Schulz, also known as “Sparky,” was the writer of Peanuts, and was born on this day in 1922, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. After serving in the military during World War II, he began publishing a cartoon called “Li’l Folks” from 1947 to 1950. Then, he began publishing Peanuts – starring characters like Charlie Brown, Linus and Snoopy – in 1950. Over the next decades, Peanuts would quickly become the most popular and influential newspaper comic strip of all time. It’s estimated that the Peanuts franchise generates more than $1 billion per year.
1939: Tina Turner
Tina Turner was born on November 26, 1939 in Nutbush, Tennessee. She rose to prominence as a singer with Ike Turner’s Kings of Rhythm, before becoming a well-known solo artist in her own right. Her nickname, “The Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll,” is apt, as she has sold more than 200 million records worldwide, and is consistently listed as one of the greatest singers and vocal performers of all time. Beyond her singing, she has also appeared in films like “Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome” “Tommy,” and “Last Action Hero.”
From the births of famous actors, to the founding of Thanksgiving as we know it, and one of the biggest robberies in history, November 26 has a lot of history – so think about some of the interesting things you’ve learned, and come back again to This Day That Age to learn more about other historical days!