Sean Hurley / NHPR

On September 28, 1863, Sarah Josepha Hale of Newport, New Hampshire, wrote a letter to President Lincoln.  The author of Mary Had A Little Lamb and one of America’s first female novelists wrote, "The subject is to have the day of our annual thanksgiving made a national holiday."  Lincoln, a great observer of the wisdom of others, quickly agreed and in 1863 Thanksgiving became our third national holiday alongside Washington’s birthday and Independence Day. 

NHPR’s Sean Hurley set out to discover what Thanksgiving was really like during Sarah Josepha Hale's time. His tack: participating in a 19th century re-creation at the Remick Country Doctor Museum.

Oil painting by James R. Lambdin

Thanksgiving before 1863 was something of a moveable feast, with states honoring the holiday at various times or not at all. But as the Civil War dragged on, Abraham Lincoln needed a way to unite the country. It was a prominent magazine editor, Sarah Josepha Hale, who finally persuaded him to declare a national holiday.

Hale, born 1788 in Newport, New Hampshire, was a prolific writer. She authored biographies, cookbooks, novels, editorials, and volumes of poetry, including the children’s rhyme Mary Had a Little Lamb.


I was once invited to Thanksgiving dinner by a friend who warned me that her family was “Not a Real Norman Rockwell Kinda Bunch”. We know that image: brightly scrubbed faces hover in smiling anticipation over sparkling china as Ma sets the turkey in front of the family patriarch ready to be carved. That painting is titled Freedom From Want and it’s one of those homespun scenes that only happens in what author Deborah Solomon calls “Rockwell Land” -- a magical reflection of American life as it should be. Solomon’s new biography of the illustrator, beloved by the masses and dismissed as corn ball by the art world, reveals a complicated, neurotic, and repressed man who lived very far from the America he invented.

Deborah Solomon is author of American Mirror: The Life and Times of Norman Rockwell

Shannon Dooling for NHPR

The traditional thanksgiving feast includes turkey, potatoes, cranberries and of course, pie. Some of the foodies from NHPR’s newsroom traveled around the state to find more on the local producers and traditions of holiday fixings. 

Thanks to Shannon Dooling, Emily Corwin, Sam Evans-Brown and Todd Bookman for these stories, which first aired last November.

Moyan Brenn / Flickr Creative Commons

Some parts of New Hampshire could see hairy travel conditions beginning Tuesday evening.  Depending on where you're going, meteorologist Gary Best encourages travelers to head out later on Wednesday.

puzzler4879 via flickr Creative Commons

Thanksgiving is just a few days away, and every year around this time, our thoughts and stomachs go out to food. Long before deep fried turkeys, gelatinized cranberry sauce, and boxed stuffing there was the inaugural Thanksgiving feast at the Plymouth plantation. So what was on the table that day? Abigail Carroll might have an idea. She’s a food historian and author who has studied the Colonial and Native American diet extensively. We spoke with her earlier this month about her new book,Three Squares: The Invention of The American Meal.

Rain Rain, Go Away
Jennuine Captures / Flickr Creative Commons

  Meteorologists have been keeping an eye on a storm system that looks like it could bring a nor’easter to the area—just in time for Thanksgiving travel.  

A century and a half after President Abraham Lincoln made Thanksgiving a national holiday, a public monument is being dedicated to the New Hampshire woman often credited with influencing his decision.   Sarah Josepha Hale was born in Newport, where a bronze memorial is being dedicated Saturday. A magazine editor, abolitionist and champion of women's causes, Hale also devoted years of her life to lobbying for Thanksgiving. Her letter writing campaign paid off in 1863, when Lincoln issued a proclamation calling for a national day of Thanksgiving each fourth Thursday in November.

Join us for a Holiday Special, called “Giving Thanks:  a Celebration of Fall, Food and Gratitude”, from American Public Media.  With music and stories for Thanksgiving, host John Birge creates a thoughtful, contemporary reflection on the meaning of the holiday. This year, the show features a grateful tribute to the great writer Nora Ephron, with a warm and funny highlight of her Giving Thanks visit last year.

Steve Rhodes via Flickr Creative Commons

Black Friday has long been a post-holiday shopping tradition for many Americans. During the last several years, customers have found their favorite stores opening ever-earlier in anticipation of growing demand. This time around, employees are fighting back against the early hours.

Emanuella Grinberg, writer with’s Living Section, joins us to talk about her article “Retail Employees Fight Black Friday Creep.” 

Rene S / Flickr Creative Commons

Part 1: Pimpin' Your Thanskgiving Faves

A.P. food writer and cookbook author J.M. Hirsch shares his tips on how to “pimp” your Thanksgiving dinner to make it impress without stress. Make your own butter in five minutes, stuff your turkey with fresh herbs, and make sure to dry your potatoes before you mash them. And as far as salad? Forget it. Thanksgiving comes but once a year, so splurge.

Part 2: A Vegan Thanksgiving???/Chocolate... Yum

Wild Cranberry Relish

Nov 16, 2012

For the forager of wild foods, November brings cranberries, crisp and tart to suit the season. Cranberries are a wetlands obligate, meaning they grow in wetland soils, so keep a watch for these low, trailing plants when you're out exploring river edges and soggy lowlands. And then return in November for the harvest. Many berries survive through the winter freeze to provide a spring snack.

<a href="">Thomas Hawk</a> / Flickr

Thursday, Nov. 22th

9:00 - 10:00 am:    Giving Thanks 2012

This special broadcast of "Gratitude, Gravy & Garrison" features acclaimed acapella group VocalEssence's celebration of all things Thanksgiving.  Garrison Keillor performs his signature monologue and contributes comic new lyrics to familiar songs and hymns.  Listener information is available at

Turkey Confidential is a live, two-hour, call-in program on Thanksgiving Day from 11 a.m. - 1 p.m. EST for public radio listeners across the nation.  On Thursday, November 24, help is on the way for Thanksgiving cooks, kitchen helpers and dinner guests on this, the biggest cooking day of the year. Host Lynne Rossetto Kasper will be available to answer listener questions throughout the live, two-hour program.


Nov 24, 2011

Autumn is harvest time. That means Iowa corn and soybeans; fruit dried in the California sun; greens, beans, and potatoes; slaughtered hogs and beef trucked to market. It also means Thanksgiving turkeys. Harvest follows the families to the grain elevator, the farmers markets and, in a welcome break from work, the State Fair. It's the time of summing up after the long growing season --- the time to decide whether the gamble of early spring planting season has paid off.  Listener information is available at

Casual carnivores imagining a vegan Thanksgiving might picture something like this: a  grayish “mock” turkey, dry spongy stuffing, and  cookies that taste like sawdust.  Vegan cooking has made great strides in recent years, but it still feels like a bit of a buzzkill to insist upon being vegan at Thanksgiving.

(Photo by Matthew Mead)

Celebrity designer Matthew Mead shares his tricks for making entertaining easy, beautiful, and fun...even if you don't have time to make a walnut wreath.

Immigration and Thanksgiving

Nov 23, 2011

Exchange Executive Producer Keith Shields explores how the holiday of Thanksgiving has been linked over time in US history with the issue of Immigration

It’s a popular topic in classrooms all over New Hampshire around this time...

But some lessons go beyond just pilgrims and Plymouth Rock and breaking bread with the Natives, in some classes the issue of immigration comes up. 








Like A Blessing/Tim Grimm/The Back Fields/Wind River

Over the River and Through the Wood/Julia Lane, Fred Gosbee and Barbara Burt/Going Home: Thanksgiving Music for Celtic Harp/Julia Lane

The Day Before Thanksgiving/Darrell Scott/A Crooked Road/Full Lights

The Thanksgiving Song/Fred Holstein/  Tribute To Steve Goodman/Red Pajamas

Thanks A Lot/Gravity/Roadman/Gravity

All God's Critters/John McCutcheon/Howjadoo/ Rounder

(Photo by <a href="" target="_blank">Ginger Me</a> via Flickr Creative Commons)

Super designer and celebrity lifestyle expert Matthew Mead shares his ideas for Holiday entertaining. A vegan cookbook does its best to make Turkey Day yummy. P.J. O'Rourke shares tales from the lighter side of reporting. And why we should do a little better with that whole "listening" thing.

For Native Americans, Thanksgiving is not a cause for celebration.  The holiday commemorating the survival – thanks to the Wampanoag tribe – of early settlers also marks the first wave of a European invasion that culminated in the death of 10 to 30 million native people.