History of the Presidential Thanksgiving Turkey Pardon

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Photo via National Turkey Federation Official Twitter

The pardoning of the White House Turkeys is an interesting Thanksgiving tradition, but one that grabs national attention each year.

Where did it originate from?

According to the White House History, “President Lincoln’s 1863 clemency to a turkey recorded in an 1865 dispatch by White House reporter Noah Brooks was the origin for the pardoning ceremony.” Since the 1870s, American presidents would receive turkeys as gifts when a Rhode Island poultry dealer sent well-fed birds to the White House.

People claim President Harry S. Truman was the first to begin the pardoning because he was the first president to receive a turkey from the Poultry and Egg Association and the National Turkey Federation.

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Photo via US National Archives Official Twitter

The Federation has been giving turkeys to presidents since 1947.

After 1981, sending the presentation turkey to a farm became normal under President Ronald Reagan.

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Photo via White House Official Twitter

Of course, there were those that opposed the pardoning, to which President George H. W. Bush responded with, “Let me assure you, and this fine tom turkey, that he will not end up on anyone’s dinner table, not this guy - he’s granted a Presidential pardon as of now - and allow him to live out his days on a children’s farm.”

The tradition has long been kept even today. Two years ago, President Trump pardoned “Corn,” and was chosen over his friend, “Cob” after the White House ran a Twitter poll asking which should be chosen.

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Photo via National Turkey Federation Official Twitter

This year, two turkeys, “Chocolate” and “Chip” from a North Carolina ranch will receive a pardon from President Joe Biden. After their pardon, they will be transported back to the Tar Heel State to be cared for at North Carolina State University.

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Photo via National Turkey Federation Official Twitter

NC State Extension turkey specialist says the turkeys will help educate students and inform others about modern farming practices.

North Carolina is home to some of the world’s top poultry and animal agriculture experts and facilities.

Story via Betty C. Monkman with the White House Historical Association

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