Thomas Nast (1840-1902)
Thanksgiving-Day, 1863
illustration
published in Harper’s Weekly

Although the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Indians celebrated health and harvest at Plymouth in 1621, Thanksgiving was not established as a holiday until 1863.  Sarah J. Hale, an influential woman of many words (in addition to editing some of the most important magazines of the day, she penned the lines of Mary Had a Little Lamb), had campaigned for an official Thanksgiving Day since the 1830s. With both Sarah and the Civil War on his doorstep, President Abraham Lincoln finally proclaimed the last Thursday of November as a national day of thanksgiving. They hoped that the holiday would remind Americans of their shared past and bridge separation among the states.

Thomas Nast, who would later hilariously ridicule fat, corrupt politicians, created one of the first illustrations of the official Thanksgiving Day. The Army, the Navy, and Lady Liberty herself give thanks for the past year and ask for help in the new one.