When did Thanksgiving—as we know it—become a national holiday?
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Since Puritan times, Americans have been prone to selecting or designating certain days for thanksgiving as well as others for fasting, mourning, or prayer. But during the 1840s and 1850s, a social reformer named Sarah Josepha Hale urged that there be a national day for thanksgiving, and when she pressed, yet again, in 1863, Lincoln saw merit in the idea. Secretary of State William H. Seward drafted the proclamation, which was issued in October. He began:
Newspapers printed the proclamation, but they also took up the cause, urging Americans to make the last Thursday in November 1863 a true day of thanksgiving.