Could you survive without these Thanksgiving facts? Likely. But it would be a rather poor and meaningless existence. Below are five Thanksgiving facts ranging from “pretty interesting” to “what the heck?” to “too strange to be believed”—all meticulously designed to steer Thanksgiving conversation away from current events and politics. Enjoy.
- Sarah Josepha Hale, who wrote the 1830 banger entitled, “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” is the one who convinced Abraham Lincoln to formally establish Thanksgiving as a holiday.
- It’s estimated that her campaign and petitioning efforts to make Thanksgiving a holiday lasted seventeen years.
- If you were curious, here is the letter where she successfully convinced Lincoln to do so.
- While we’re on the subject, here is a great Jim Gaffigan joke about “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”
- Did you know that if you have questions about cooking your turkey you can call 1-800-Butterball to reach the “Turkey Talk Line”? The “Turkey Talk Line” is staffed by trained turkey-cooking experts who answer more than 100,000 (!) turkey cooking questions each holiday season.
- A man named Vinnie Joyce sent President Calvin Coolidge a live raccoon to be served at the White House Thanksgiving Dinner.
- If you don’t recognize the name Vinnie Joyce, you’re not alone. As far as I can tell, he is not remembered by the history books for doing anything else. Question: would you rather be remembered for absolutely nothing at all or for sending a live raccoon to a sitting president?
- I bet you’re wondering whether Coolidge ate the coon. He did not. He gave it a presidential pardon, named it Rebecca, and kept it as a pet. Bet you weren’t expecting that, were ya?
- Coolidge would take Rebecca on walks around the grounds of the White House.
- On Christmas, Rebecca was gifted a collar with “Rebecca Raccoon of the White House” engraved on her tag. Aw.
- How many turkeys get eaten in the United States in a given year?
- 46 million. RIP.
- After a terrible year in Thanksgiving turkey sales, the company, Swanson, found themselves with 520,000 pounds of unsold bird. With no place to store them, they kept them in refrigerated railroad cars and the train reportedly went back and forth in order to allow Swanson executives time to figure out what they could do with the leftover birds.
- As the story goes (and is occasionally disputed), Gerry Thomas, a salesperson for Swanson, sketched the idea of the TV dinner after seeing an aluminum tray at a distributor’s warehouse. Thomas was reportedly given a thousand dollars and a promotion at the company.
- Swanson execs ran with the idea. They created a national marketing campaign highlighting the suburban luxury of not having to cook and eating in front of the tube. The dream.
- In order to make TV dinners a viable and tasty reality, execs tasked Betty Cronin, a twenty-one-year-old bacteriologist, with figuring out how create and preserve dishes while still maintaining their flavor.