x
Breaking News
More () »

Houston's Leading Local News: Weather, Traffic, Sports and more | Houston, Texas | KHOU.com

History of turkey pardoning at the White House | Connect the Dots

Did you know the first turkey pardoning was actually during Christmas? Other interesting facts about this heartwarming presidential tradition.

It's an American tradition closely tied to Thanksgiving but the origin of the presidential turkey pardon is probably a lot more adorable than you thought and not related to thanksgiving. 

Let's connect the dots.

Abraham Lincoln was the first

According to White House historians, it all started in 1863 when a live turkey was brought to the presidential residence for Christmas. 

The plan was to cook it and eat it, but President Abraham Lincoln's son, Tad, fell in love with the feathered friend. He named it Jack and taught the bird to follow him around the White House grounds. 

When Christmas eve rolled around, Tad begged his dad to spare the turkeys life, arguing that Jack was a good turkey who deserved to live. 

President Lincoln, who was known to be a very indulgent father, wrote up a pardon for the turkey and gave it to his son, saving Jack. He stayed as Tad's pet for at least another year.

George H.W. Bush made it official

It wasn't until a hundred years later that President John F. Kennedy announced he wouldn't eat the turkey sent to the White House that year and the tradition started up, again. 

However, it wasn't official until 1989 when President George H. W. Bush granted a presidential pardon to the bird in a White House ceremony.