Thanksgiving is one of the few national holidays which is distinctly American – although, there is a “Turkey Day” in Canada, too. The date of the first Thanksgiving is put at 1621 in Plymouth, Massachusetts, but the history of the holiday is not terribly clear.
24/7 Wall St. set out to look at the most prosperous Thanksgivings in American history. We found that it was hard to compare what prosperity meant at the turn of the last century, when the U.S. was largely an agricultural society, and how the word is used in today’s industrialized world. Further, reliable government statistics before 1929 are difficult to find. So, we chose to look at the “modern” era after the Great Depression.
We looked at several economic indicators used by the federal government to measure the health of the economy. None is sufficient to define prosperity, but taken together they provide a fair illustration of the state of the economy.
It is notable that the ten most prosperous Thanksgivings are grouped into five periods: the mid-1940s, early-1950s, the mid-1960s, the late 1990s, and the period from 2005 to 2007. These time periods were characterized by innovation, high consumer activity and government policies that improved the average American’s life. They were – as is true with most periods of significant expansion – followed by recessions as has been the case in the last three years.
These are the ten most prosperous Thanksgivings since the Great Depression. Whether they were the happiest cannot be told without peering into the windows of America’s homes. But, during these years, people had work and the blessing of living in a financially healthy country – one which supported an expanding economy that gave its citizens the promise of a financially stable future.