Americans used to have the quaint custom of not putting out Christmas decorations until after Thanksgiving. That custom seemed to bode ill for the American economy in 1939 with Thanksgiving falling on November 30. President Lincoln had established the custom of Americans nationally thanking God for His blessings on the last Thursday in November. Now another president was going to make a change in this custom.
1939 was a lackluster year for the American economy, and President Roosevelt made the decision in August that Thanksgiving would be celebrated on the fourth Thursday instead, November 23. Polls indicated that a majority of the American people opposed the change with Republicans most opposed.
Twenty three states used the new date, twenty two states used the old date, and three states had holidays on both dates. The confusion this caused was fodder for comedians with Curly in a Three Stooges short No Census, No Feeling, remarks on the Fourth of July being in October. When Moe is incredulous, Curly responds, “You never can tell. Look what they did to Thanksgiving!”
Congress passed a Joint Resolution in 1941 formally switching Thanksgiving to the fourth Thursday in November. Some states continued to celebrate the traditional date with Texas being the last to do so in 1956. Ironically, a 1941 survey by the Commerce Department found no significant increase in retail sales in 1940 due to the change.