Thanksgiving Factoids

So you assumed politics would be my subject the weekend before mid-terms? Wrong again you are. Here at the Gallaher Burke homestead, we intend to celebrate Thanksgiving regardless of who wins what next week. It’s a wonderful blessing to be here, with enormous blessings in so many ways and for that we thank a loving and almighty God. But I am here to test your knturkeyowledge, so here is your exam for the upcoming holiday.

Can turkeys swim? Did Benjamin Franklin really think the turkey should be the national bird? When was the first Thanksgiving? When was the first government sanctioned Thanksgiving?

When did Macy’s hold their first Thanksgiving Day Parade? Do female turkeys gobble? Why does Campbell’s Soup sell cream of mushroom soup?  How did TV dinners come about? What is the average weight of a Thanksgiving turkey? And finally, yes, the turkey is fat, but you get that way too because on Thanksgiving, the average American eats how many calories?

Yes, turkeys can swim. And they are adept at flying short distances upwards of 50 mph. Plus they can run about 12 mph. So they ought to be the triathlon champs  of Thanksgiving, instead they are our dinner. Oh, to be clear, domesticated turkeys can’t do any of those athletic things. We are talking American Turkeys, you know, the wild ones.



No, Benny didn’t think turkeys should be the national bird. He was mad at the Society of Cincinnati, a group of officers under George Washington’s command, who wanted to have a meritocracy award based on parental lineage. Benny was not impressed, so he took a parting shot at the eagle for some reason. “For my own part I wish the bald eagle had not been chosen as the representative of our country. [Franklin served on the committee that designated the eagle the national symbol!] He is a bird of bad moral character. He does not get his living honestly … For in truth, the turkey is in comparison a much more respectable bird, and withal a true original native of America.” So it appears he was just mad at the moment, but he never used the turkey as a symbol, although he did use the eagle.

The first Thanksgiving, with no known religious ties, was between the Wampanoag Native Americans and the settlers. The Wampanoags heard gunshots and worried that a war might be at hand. Instead of sending a Twitter volley, they went to visit the settlers. What a concept! They discovered that the settlers were simply hunting for food for a feast, so the Wampanoags joined the hunt and they celebrated together for three days. Two years later there was the first notation of a religious aspect to the ceremony.

You missed this one. In 1863, Abe Lincoln designed TWO thanksgivings, one on August 6th to commemorate the Battle of Gettysburg and then one the fourth Thursday in November for “general blessings.”

The Macy’s parade kicked off in 1924, during the Roaring Twenties. Macy’s actually macystook the idea of Gimbell’s parade four years earlier and ran with it to celebrate the opening of their one million square foot store!

No, female turkeys don’t gobble. In one of nature’s bizarre twists, the female turkey isn’t the blabbering sex.

Campbell’s created green bean casserole as a side dish for Thanksgiving, and naturally used their mushroom soup. Now they sell $20 million of cream of mushroom soup each year. Smart marketing.

99 centsTV dinners got started when a smart Swanson’s sale rep, eyeing 26 tons of unsold turkey in 1953, suggested a foil pack with side dishes for Thanksgiving. Now there are aisles of frozen dinners at your fingertips. Another smart marketing move.

The average turkey consumed is 15 pounds. Around the Gallaher Burke place, we usually have several turkeys in excess of that size. It’s absurd but I love turkey sandwiches. Smoked. Fried. Baked. Matters not to me.

Finally, okay I’m guilty of this easily, but the Average American [needing 2,000 calories] eats around 4,500 calories on Thanksgiving! 3,000 at the main meal, and 1,500 “snacking.”

There were 10 questions, what was your score?

Kelly Burke, master attorney, former district attorney and magistrate judge, is engaged in private practice. He writes about the law, rock’n’roll and politics or anything that strikes him. These articles are not designed to give legal advice, but are designed to inform the public about how the law affects their daily lives. Contact Kelly at to comment on this article or suggest articles that you’d like to see and visit his website  www.kellyrburke.comto view prior columns.


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