Oregonians celebrated Thanksgiving twice, in 1893 and 1894
PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Have you ever imagined what it would be like to celebrate Turkey Day twice a year? Probably not, but that was the reality for Oregonians in the early 1890’s.
From 1886 to 1895, Sylvester Pennoyer served two terms as Oregon’s eighth governor. Pennoyer was a Democratic governor, but according to the Oregon Encyclopedia he supported the Populist Party in support of the common people rather than the “elites”.
During Pennoyer’s tenure, Democrat Grover Cleveland served as US President from 1885 to 1889 and was re-elected for a second term from 1893 to 1897. According to the Willamette Heritage Center, Pennoyer requested that Oregon’s ceremonial cannon be locked away to prevent any celebration of Cleveland’s second inauguration in 1993.
The two politicians disagreed over a number of policies, including the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. For ten years, this law banned Chinese workers from immigrating to the United States. Gov. Pennoyer was in favor of the law and believed the Chinese immigrants were doing so to intercept job offers for white Americans, says the Oregon Historical Society.
In 1892, Congress extended the law by another 10 years with the Geary Act. The new law imposed further restrictions on Chinese residents, who now had to register and provide proof of residency.
After expanding the law, President Cleveland ordered state officials to protect their local Chinese communities from possible acts of violence. Governor Pennoyer replied unequivocally with a telegram that read: “I will mind my business. Let the President take care of his.”
Cleveland and Pennoyer also disagreed over the Sherman Silver Act. Passed in 1890, the law required the government to purchase 4.5 ounces of silver each month to stimulate the US economy. Although this law helped Oregon farmers and silver miners pay off their debts, it also caused high inflation in the US and hampered the country’s precious gold reserves.
With the Panic of 1893 leaving many Americans financially bankrupt, Cleveland decided in October to repeal the Sherman Silver Act to prevent the Depression from deepening. This angered populist Gov. Pennoyer, who some reportedly dubbed the “Sylpester trouble.”
Thanksgiving was the next issue in the ongoing saga. On November 1, 1983, Pennoyer mailed his own statement before the President could. Governor Pennoyer announced that Thanksgiving would be on November 23, the fourth Thursday of the month, while Cleveland’s subsequent statement announced that Thanksgiving was on the last Thursday of the month – as it had been since President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed it in 1863 .
In his Thanksgiving proclamation, Pennoyer said, “Therefore, while the people of Oregon thank God for His goodness, I sincerely commend them to fervently implore Him to cause the President and Congress of the United States to secure the restoration of silver to the full.” legal tender, in accordance with the policy of the Fathers of the Republic, whereby industry may be revived and the honest laborers of the country procure their daily bread, not as alms, but as wages for their labour.”
Read the governor’s full proclamation here.
According to the Oregon Historical Society, Oregonians celebrated two Thanksgiving celebrations in 1893 and two in 1894, when the month returned to five Thursdays.
OHS cited an 1893 edition of the Morning Oregonians who said, “A man who can turn a Thanksgiving proclamation into an advertisement for himself should be paid well as a circus boomer.”
Pennoyer died in 1902, but he may be pleased to know that Thanksgiving is now celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November.