Schuylkill County’s first Thanksgiving – November 1845

On November 27, 1845, Pottsville prepared to celebrate its first official Thanksgiving Day after Governor Francis Shunk set aside the day as a holiday in Pennsylvania.

Thanksgiving had been considered a New England tradition, but had slowly begun spreading outside those states in the early decades of the 19th century. By the 1840s, Pennsylvania newspapers were reporting positively about Thanksgiving celebrations in other states.

In November 1845, Governor Shunk brought Thanksgiving to Pennsylvania. The Miners’ Journal editorial staff gave this hearty approval and hoped that local residents would mark the day appropriately: “The past season has been one of great prosperity. – The earth has yielded her fruits in abundance; manufactures have flourished, and there has been unusual activity in the Commercial world… We hope that our citizens will not forget the 27th inst., but that Thanksgiving Day will be observed throughout the State, with appropriate exercises.”

Pottsville marked Schuylkill County’s first official Thanksgiving on November 27, 1845 and the day received high marks as a holiday. The Miners’ Journal reported on the holiday on November 29, 1845:

Thanksgiving Day. –

Thursday last, the 27th inst., having been appointed by the Governor as a day of Thanksgiving and Prayer, our citizens made arrangements for the observances of it in a proper manner.

Nearly all of the Stores and places of business were closed, there were few wagons or other vehicles in the streets, and the town was almost as quiet as it is generally upon a Sunday. The Churches were open for public worship, discourses appropriate to the occasion were delivered, and the attendance upon the religious exercises of the day was large, notwithstanding the unpleasant weather.

We are glad to see that every year Thanksgiving is becoming more closely observed, and we join in the hope expressed by one of our exchanges, that next the President will recommend a Day of National Thanksgiving, which may be observed throughout the Union, so that the Nation, as one man, may return grateful acknowledgements to God for the blessings he has conferred upon our happy country.

1845 Christmas Presents
The Miners’ Journal’s reporting on Thanksgiving took place in the same edition as this advertisement for Christmas presents.

The Miners’ Journal’s hopes for a Day of National Thanksgiving had to wait… for 18 years. During the middle of the nation’s bloody Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday to commemorate massive victories for the US Army that year (Gettysburg and Vicksburg).

Featured Image: Home to Thanksgiving by Currier and Ives, 1867 (Library of Congress) 

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