Thanksgiving is one of the few national holidays which is distinctly American, although there is a “Turkey Day” in Canada, too. The first Thanksgiving was celebrated in 1621 in Plymouth, Massachusetts, but the history of the holiday is not terribly clear.
24/7 Wall St. has 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, compared to how the word is used in today’s industrialized world. Further, reliable government statistics before 1929 are difficult to find. We therefore 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.
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 four years.
Whether the ten most prosperous Thanksgivings 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. These are the ten most prosperous Thanksgivings since the Great Depression.