Presidential Turkey Pardons: A Historical Review

President Harry S. Truman playfully touches the wattle of a 35-pound tom turkey from Oregon in the White House Rose Garden on Nov. 18, 1952. This historical moment marked the birth of the annual tradition of pardoning the Thanksgiving turkey, but the peace accord between the fowl and the White House is a modern-day occurrence. It’s worth noting that some presidents actually dined on their feathery guests!

While Abraham Lincoln didn’t officially establish the tradition, he made a personal request for a turkey to be spared, since his son had developed an attachment to it. It was President Harry S. Truman who cemented the presidential turkey pardon as a long-standing tradition. The concept has since been sustained throughout the years, with each president taking part in the pardoning of a Thanksgiving turkey.

From Dwight D. Eisenhower to Joe Biden, this tradition has endured, reminding us that the unassuming turkey has truly become an integral part of Thanksgiving festivities in the U.S. The famous Thanksgiving turkey pardon continuously serves as a reminder of this country’s history and traditions.


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