Thanksgiving Turkey: A Brief History

Story by Holden Phillips // Contributor

This Thanksgiving, families all across the nation will sit down to give thanks and to enjoy a meal with turkey as the centerpiece.

During this time of the year stores stock up on turkeys, children make arts and crafts of the bird in school and the president even pardons a turkey every Thanksgiving. But what about this bird has made it synonymous with the holiday?

Cathy Crabtree, an adjunct history professor at MTSU, says the turkey rose to popularity from being a common food source in early America.

“Wild turkeys were so prominent in this county, it was a common food,” Crabtree said.

She also mentions a Norman Rockwell print that may have helped solidify the turkeys place at Thanksgiving dinner.

“Norman Rockwell print that he did, I think it was in the 1940s I’m not sure exactly the date,” she said. “It’s called Thanksgiving, and it shows them with the turkey putting it on the table.”

Crabtree also mentions Benjamin Franklin’s idea to make the turkey our national bird as another factor in its popularity. While it might not have held a strong spot as our national animal, turkey still holds strong as the staple of Thanksgiving dinner.

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