150 years ago today was the day President Lincoln proclaimed as a day of Thanksgiving. The New-York Times saw it as a day that helped unite the states and parties and hoped it would remain a grand national holiday.
From The New-York Times November 25, 1864:
THANKSGIVING.; General Observance of the Day. ENTERTAINMENT TO THE SOLDIERS. Dinners at the Charitable Institutions. Sermons by Rev. Dr. Tyng, Rev. Henry Ward Beecher, Rev. Dr. Chapin, Rev. Dr. Mc-Clintock, Rev. Dr. Vermilye, Rev. Dr. Frothingham, Rev. Dr. Adams, Rev. Dr. Cox, and Others. Sermon by the Rev. Dr. Tyng. Sermon by Rev. Henry Ward Beecher. Sermon of Rev. Dr. Chapin. Sermon by Rev. Dr. McClintock. Sermon by Rev. Dr. Vermilye. Sermon by Rev. Mr. Frothingham. Sermon by Rev. Dr. Adams. Twenty-Fifth-Street Baptist Church. Sermon of Rev. Dr. Coxe. Sermon by Rev. Dr. Osgood. St. Patrick’s Cathedral. St. Joseph’s Church. St. Peter’s Church. Israelites. Soldiers’ Dinner at the New-England Rooms. The Battery Barracks. The Willet’s Point Hospital The New-York State Soldiers’ Home. Observance of Thanksgiving in Brooklyn Thanksgiving at the Brooklyn Navy-yard. Thanksgiving in Jersey City.
Yesterday was more generally observed as a national holiday than any preceding Thanksgiving day we remember. Stores were universally closed. The churches were opened and filled with devout worshipers. The charity of the citizens of New-York provided for the unfortunate poor a bountiful supply of those comforts which make the day a joyful one to them. The people of this city felt that it was a day of thankfulness and gratitude, not merely for the fatness of the annual turkey which graced the family table, but for comparative prosperity in all things. An exciting political contest has passed away and not left in its track the devastating effects of bloody strile, as many feared and a few hoped.
Victor and vanquished having buried their animosities, united in thanking God for the material prosperity of the country in the midst of a destructive war. Last Thanksgiving morning, the glorious victory of Chattanooga delighted loyal hearts. Yesterday the news that SHERMAN had grasped the vitals of the Confederacy, was an additional cause of gratitude to true men. President LINCOLN, by his proclamation, for the first time unites the States upon one general day of Thanksgiving. From Maine to California the day was kept as a festival, and around the reunion of families and friends, bright hopes were entertained that the next occasion of the kind might witness a united country returning thanks for freedom and peace. And those who gathered yesterday around their firesides, enjoying the comforts of home, after the luxuries of a good dinner, could not but feel happier at the thought that upon this day the brave defenders of those homes, in camps and fleets, had not been forgotten, but were also feasting upon the bounty of their friends. The day itself was fair and sunny, the extreme cold moderated to the bracing temperature of the Indian Summer, and the heavens smiled upon the happiness, the charities and the festal pleasures of the nation’s Thanksgiving. This custom of the New-England Pilgrims, at first confined to a few States, gradually spreading as it was adopted by others, has at last, in 1864, assumed the scope and standing of a grand national holiday, which, it is hoped, will be permanent and universally observed.
We give below our usual summary of the sermons delivered, and the observance of the day among the poor. …
The cartoon of the well-fed Union soldiers was published in the December 3, 1864 issue of Harper’s Weekly, which you can see at Son of the South, along with a Thomas Nast overview of the day that also promotes the idea of a more united nation (“United We Stand”) and a drawing by Winslow Homer of Union soldiers partaking in the wish-bone tradition.