According to the site, there is a popular but incorrect thought that it started with President Harry Truman in 1947. Likely, the reason for that is the National Turkey Federation started giving an annual holiday turkey to the White House in 1947. However, there is no record of Truman’s presidency that indicates he pardoned any of the birds from becoming a holiday meal.
Snopes has a link to the Harry S. Truman Library & Museum that discusses this very matter.
According to information on the library site, truman library.org, officials there have fielded many requests for information confirming the story that Truman pardoned a turkey in 1947.
However, according to the library site, “The Library’s staff has found no documents, speeches, newspaper clippings, photographs, or other contemporary records in our holdings which refer to Truman pardoning a turkey that he received as a gift in 1947, or at any other time during his presidency.”
The statement continues — I should caution any turkeys who are reading this, you might want to skip ahead — “Truman sometimes indicated to reporters that the turkeys he received were destined for the family dinner table.”
The library website also points out various groups presented Truman with turkeys, but that usually was during Christmas season instead of Thanksgiving.
So where did it start? That depends. Folklore says President Lincoln pardoned a turkey that belonged to his son, Tad, in 1863.
A century later, in 1963, when President John F. Kennedy received a turkey he announced he didn’t plan to eat it, according to snopes.
The sites states the first time an official pardon was issued came in 1989 when President George H.W. Bush declared the turkey was “granted a presidential pardon as of right now, allowing him to live out his days on a farm not far from here.”
Staff Writer Bernie Delinski writes Just Ask, which runs Wednesdays. If you’ve got a question, email it to bernie.delinski@TimesDaily.com.