Culture  /  Audio

American as Pumpkin Pie

Why Pilgrims would be stunned by our "traditional" Thanksgiving table, and other surprising truths about the invention of our national holiday.


Peter Onuf:  This is BackStory with us, the American History Guys.  In Peter Onuf, 18th century guy.

Ed Ayers:  I’m Ed Ayers, 19th century history guy.

Brian Balogh:  And I’m Brian Balogh, your 20th century history guy.

Brian Balogh:  It’s that time of year in American, when the holidays start to come fast and furious.  Thirty-five years ago, Charlie Brown just about summed it up to his sister, Sally, and his good buddy, Linus.

[Charlie Brown Clip] “We’ve got another holiday to worry about.  It seems Thanksgiving Day is upon us.  I haven’t even finished eating all my Halloween candy.  Sally, Thanksgiving is a very important holiday.  Ours was the first country in the world to make a national holiday to give thanks.”

Peter:  Each week on BackStory, we take a topic from the here and now and explore its historical roots.  This week, we’re getting out the carving knives and taking on Thanksgiving.  Like Linus said, it’s a very important holiday; but why is it so important and why did the U.S. Declare a national holiday to give thanks. By the end of today’s show, we hope to have some answers.

Brian:  Guys, I know that when it comes to holidays, Thanksgiving is really the big enchilada for historians; I mean, what other holiday do people get out and actually re-enact an episode from American history, but I get excited about Thanksgiving for an entirely different reason.

[football play-by-play]

Brian:  Now, when we were planning today’s show, I made it clear how I felt about this to our producers, and as usual, they didn’t listen to me, they said I had to do an interview anyway, so I said, “All right, you find me someone who values what I value about the holiday, and I’ll do your interview.”  Peter, Ed, our producers, once again, came through.

Roger Staubach: “I’m Roger Stabuch, I was a former quarterback for the United States Naval Academy, and I also spent 11 years as a quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys”