Tusks Family Blog
“Amazingly, there’s no evidence that anyone called the Plymouth harvest celebration the first Thanksgiving until 1841, when the Unitarian reverend Alexander Young published Chronicles of the Pilgrim Forefathers. Winslow’s description of the celebration had been left out of previous editions of Mourt’s Relation; after it was rediscovered in an old pamphlet in Philadelphia, Young reprinted it, adding the footnote that “this was the first Thanksgiving, the harvest festival of New England.” It was terrific timing—as the holiday changed from a religious observance to an annual family feast, calling the Plymouth celebration the first Thanksgiving made intuitive sense. But it was many years before most people assumed the connection; the first image [historian and author of Thanksgiving James] Baker has found connecting Plymouth to Thanksgiving is an 1870 Harper’s woodcut. Thanksgiving dinner wasn’t the continuation of an old Pilgrim tradition, or even modeled after it; instead the Pilgrim story was used to explain a holiday dinner that more and more people were eating anyway.” 

-Andrew Beahrs in Twain’s Feast: Searching for America’s Lost Foods in the Footsteps of Samuel Clemens 

(pictured is page 745 from the November 20, 1869 (pre-pilgrim) Thanksgiving issue of Harper’s)

“Amazingly, there’s no evidence that anyone called the Plymouth harvest celebration the first Thanksgiving until 1841, when the Unitarian reverend Alexander Young published Chronicles of the Pilgrim Forefathers. Winslow’s description of the celebration had been left out of previous editions of Mourt’s Relation; after it was rediscovered in an old pamphlet in Philadelphia, Young reprinted it, adding the footnote that “this was the first Thanksgiving, the harvest festival of New England.” It was terrific timing—as the holiday changed from a religious observance to an annual family feast, calling the Plymouth celebration the first Thanksgiving made intuitive sense. But it was many years before most people assumed the connection; the first image [historian and author of Thanksgiving James] Baker has found connecting Plymouth to Thanksgiving is an 1870 Harper’s woodcut. Thanksgiving dinner wasn’t the continuation of an old Pilgrim tradition, or even modeled after it; instead the Pilgrim story was used to explain a holiday dinner that more and more people were eating anyway.”

-Andrew Beahrs in Twain’s Feast: Searching for America’s Lost Foods in the Footsteps of Samuel Clemens

(pictured is page 745 from the November 20, 1869 (pre-pilgrim) Thanksgiving issue of Harper’s)