The Thanksgiving Turkey Pardon Used to Be a Massacre
Guess which President felt too bad to eat his
I know this story is one that would normally published in November, but I’m interested in it now. You’ll remember enough of it in six months to use it for party banter.
Did you know that Calvin Coolidge had a pet raccoon in the White House? This came about when a Mississippi farmer sent the animal to President Coolidge in an attempt to make raccoon meat the main event in the American Thanksgiving dinner. The Coolidges said no thank you, but did keep her around during their administration. (They named her Rebecca!)
If you’re wondering if it was common practice in the early 1900s to send live animals to the White House in November, the answer is yes. This is because one man, a turkey farmer in Rhode Island named Horace Vose, had sent (dead) turkeys to every sitting president since 1873, a tradition that stopped only upon his death in December 1913. When he died, turkey farmers from around the country scrambled to become the supplier, stepping it up by sending the birds still alive. Woodrow Wilson had no problem having the birds dispatched upon arrival; when Coolidge took office he made it known that his household would go ahead and buy their own pre-killed birds. The agriculture lobby did not take kindly to that, so after two years he relented, bringing on a deluge of less conventional meats like quail and deer. Hence, Rebecca the Raccoon.
The first “National Thanksgiving Turkey Presentation” didn’t happen until 1947, and it was explicitly an act of aggression by the National Poultry and Egg Board, pissed at Truman and his campaign for “Meatless Tuesdays” and the now lesser-known “Poultryless Thursdays.” Truman did the presentation, ate the offering, and downgraded his request to “Eggless Thursdays.”