Today in the United States, we celebrate the National Day of Thanksgiving. A lot of Americans will tell you that the First Thanksgiving occurred in 1621 with the Pilgrims and Indians in Plymouth, MA. Though some states were celebrating, it would take over two centuries before Thanksgiving would become a national holiday.
During his first term as President, Abraham Lincoln would attempt to make this happen. In 1861, he had federal departments close on the last Thursday of November. Two years later, a 74 year old writer by the name of Sarah Josepha Hale wrote a letter to Lincoln to make Thanksgiving a national holiday. She had attempted this since 1846 and wrote letters to Lincoln’s predecessors, Zachary Taylor, Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan, but none were persuaded. President Lincoln saw it differently as he thought it was a great idea, especially that the country was in the middle of Civil War. Lincoln’s Secretary of State would write a proclamation to make Thanksgiving the third national holiday in the United States, after Washington’s birthday and Independence Day.
Here is the proclamation:
October 3, 1863
By the President of the United States of America.
The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.
In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the Eighty-eighth.
By the President: Abraham Lincoln
William H. Seward,
Secretary of State
United States Coins of 1863
In 1863, the only mint branches that were open were in Philadelphia and San Francisco. With the southern states seceded from the Union, the branch offices of Charlotte, Dahlonega, and New Orleans were closed. US coins came in the following denominations: cent, three cent, half dime, dime, quarter, half dollar and dollar. There were also gold dollars, quarter eagles ($2.50 gold), half eagles ($5 gold), eagles ($10 gold) and double eagles ($20 gold). Back then, gold coins as well as silver coins were in circulation.
The Indian Cent was in its fifth year and was thicker than the pennies that we see today. In 1863, the cents were composed of 88% copper and 12% nickel. With copper and nickel need for the war effort, the nickel would be removed from the cent in 1864 and the copper content was reduced.
The Three Cent Silver had been around since 1851. With people hoarding silver because of the war, the mint would introduce the Two Cent Piece in 1864 and Three Cent Nickel in 1865. As a result, only a few thousand Three Cent Silver coins would be minted in Philadelphia each year until 1873.
Half Dimes were also silver coins and used as a 5 cent coin from 1792 to 1873. Just like the Three Cent Silver, Half Dimes would be hoarded which resulted in the mint producing Nickels starting in 1866.
Silver Half Dimes through Silver Dollars in 1863 were all called Seated Liberty or Liberty Seated Coins, depending on who you talk to. These were the longest lasting coins of the 19th century. Half Dimes and Dollars lasted till 1873, but the dimes, quarters and half dollars would stick around until 1892.