Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation: On This Day, October 3, 1863

On October 3, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation calling on all Americans "in every part of the United States . . . to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a Day of Thanksgiving and Prayer to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens."

Though the United States was embroiled in a bloody and destructive civil war, President Lincoln reminded the nation that there was still much to be thankful for: "The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies . . . Peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed every where, except in the theatre of military conflict."

Harper’s Weekly published the Thanksgiving Proclamation on October 17 and printed a two-page thanksgiving engraving by Thomas Nast on December 5. In the video below, Curator Beth Huffer explains the significance of the engraving.