The Thanksgiving Myth-busting patrol is here with the truth behind an annual seasonal event:
The presidential tradition of pardoning a turkey goes all the way back to …. 1989. Yes, George H.W. Bush was the first president to officially pardon his Thanksgiving turkey.
He sent Tom off to a Virginia petting zoo with the words “Let me assure this fine tom he will not end up on anyone’s dinner table. Not this guy. He’s been granted a presidential pardon as of right now, allowing him to live out his days on a farm not far from here.” (Thus ensuring that some other poor turkey ended up on the White House table.)
Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama have continued the pardons. Last year, the two turkeys Obama pardoned (one was an understudy for the official ceremony) went to live at Mount Vernon.
Some claim that Harry Truman pardoned the turkey given to him by the National Turkey Federation in 1947, but the Truman Library has found no evidence a pardon occurred.
In 1963, John F. Kennedy announced he wasn’t going to eat the turkey he received, but he didn’t actually pardon it. Ronald Reagan spared a turkey, too, but merely joked about a pardon as he was questioned about the Iran-Contra affair.
On FamilyTreeMagazine.com, we bust five more Thanksgiving myths, including the one about the buckled Pilgrim hat of children’s stories.