President Harry S Truman’s 1947 Thanksgiving Day Proclamation

President Harry S Truman and the ever-present Bess. Photograph courtesy Harry S Truman Library, Independence, Missouri
President Harry S Truman and the ever-present Bess.
Photograph courtesy Harry S Truman Library, Independence, Missouri
Yes, it would be helpful to know why I am forever celebrating Thanksgiving.  Don't you think?

When I was born Harry Truman was President of the United States. Here is President Truman’s Thanksgiving Day Proclamation for 1947  [official proclamation number 2756.] 

President Harry S Truman‘s Thanksgiving Day Proclamation when I was less than two months old

By the President of the United States of America
A Proclamation
Older than our nation itself is the hallowed custom of resting from our labors for one day at harvest time and of dedicating that day to expressions of gratitude to Almighty God for the many blessings which He has heaped upon us. Now, as the cycle of the year nears completion, it is fitting that we should lift up our hearts again in special prayers.



Controversies over the issuance of President Proclamations and indeed over the celebration of Thanksgiving itself are not unusual. Wikipedia has a lengthy section where Native American groups and historians criticize Thanksgiving as a mythological Massachusetts celebration of harmony between Native Americans and European settlers. The celebrations were then followed by the genocide of Native Americans.

[5. President Franklin D. Roosevelt was criticized for proclaiming Thanksgiving so late in the month of November of 1933. The Depression was at its worst and he was trying to stimulate Christmas shopping. In 2013, President Obama was criticized for not mentioning God in his Thanksgiving proclamation. In 2014, he was criticized for only  mentioning God once. Other presidents have been criticized by atheist groups for mentioning God at all.

[6. For me, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year. It has always meant for me criticism of the killing of Native Americans and concern for the poor and hungry who have not had the opportunity to enjoy our country’s abundance. I was raised by a single mother who was raised by a single mother. For my mother Miriam, who adored President Franklin Roosevelt, Thanksgiving meant the president’s effort to use the holiday to integrate immigrant groups into our country’s social fabric. For me it represents an understanding that on this special day regardless of our personal, political, and social views, the United States is one country under God committed to a concept of government best summed up by the late Governor of New York Alfred Smith who said, “The only cure for the ills of Democracy is more Democracy.” This year I read the Bill of Rights in celebration of Thanksgiving.

[7. Yes, I do plan to publish at least one more presidential proclamation, the one issued in November 1960 by President Dwight David Eisenhower shortly after President John Kennedy was elected president. My mother, for whom saving money was not easy, flew up that year from Florida to Brooklyn, New York to celebrate with my grandmother Celia Schneider who lived in the Boro Park section of Brooklyn. After the meal, we turned on the television (for my generation a new medium) and watched the Edward R. Murrow broadcast Harvest of Shame.

[8. “This is CBS Reports Harvest of Shame. It has to do with the men, women, and children who harvest the crops in this country of ours, the best-fed nation on earth.

“These are the forgotten people, the under-protected, the under-educated, the under-clothed, the under-fed.

“We present this report on Thanksgiving because were it not for the labor of the people you are going to meet, you might not starve, but your table would not be laden with  the luxuries that we have all come to regard as essentials.

“We should like you to meet some of your fellow citizens who harvest the food for the best-fed nation on earth.”

[9 Watching the Morrow “Harvest of Shame” broadcast from my grandmother’s Brooklyn piano bench marked one of the most influential events of my life. In the 1970s, when I was in my 20s, I worked on a newsletter in Washington D.C. on the problems of migrant agricultural workers–workers described in the Morrow broadcast focusing on Belle Glade, Florida, but also visiting the home base and migrant streams  and farm-worker bases in  the West, the Midwest, and South. 

[10. In no small part, the misery Morrow broadcast has converted from rural to urban misery. In 1960, when Edward R. Murrow was broadcasting to an affluent nation , farm workers themselves were in the midst of massive migrations out of rural areas and to large cities such as Detroit. One black tenant  farmer in Arkansas told me the migration hit so quickly chickens were left unfed so eager were tenant farmers for the chance at prosperity in Detroit. My friend Phillip Moery, whose family owns a rice farm in Wynne, Arkansas told me of talk in the 1950s and 60s at the family dinner table as rural workers disappeared in mass to Detroit.

11. One reason for the migration was the rapidly developing mechanization of farming, including pesticides and genetically engineered food products replacing the need for labor. (In Belle Glade, Florida, for example, I saw a radish harvester with 16 arms scoop up, bag, and seal bags of radishes once picked by hand.) A second reason for the migration was the need for assembly line workers in cities such as Detroit who received good pay and benefits for work that did not require substantial education. 

12)The decline of the Detroit automobile industry, its refusal to innovate during times of massive prosperity was followed by massive unemployment, petroleum price increases, and Japanese and German competition. Detroit is emerging from the largest bankruptcy in the history of U.S. which at one point threatened to sell off the art collection of the Detroit Institute of Art (including a Van Gough self-portrait)

vanPhoto provided courtesy of the Detroit Institute of Arts. 

and a combination of massive infusions of funds and savvy concerned citizens will result in a new smaller less powerful city whose future will not be linked to the automobile industry. As a columnist for e-architect, I have been worrying about how to tell the story of Detroit, the most significant U.S. story for architects and builders in the world. My first column on Detroit was entitled, Is Detroit Dying? My current conclusion is there will be a prosperous section of Detroit, a city which has gone from a population  1.4 million to less than 700,000. Yet Detroit will retain large section of aging urban poor; namely, the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the rural poor Edward R. Murrow described in 1960. This demographic, many of whom are aging without adequate social services, experienced an all too brief period of prosperity. They live trapped in an African-American downtown ghetto with no place to go. The local public schools are among the worst in the nation.  The ability of the young to obtain job skills is questionable at best even, as I expect, Detroit’s economy will improve. The decline of Detroit, as with the decline of so many U.S. population centers, is a consequence of the hubris of the generation who parented the Baby Boomers. These veterans believed winning World War II was enough, convinced we ruled the world, and too proud or insouciant to invest in our domestic future . Our future as a country depends on our ability to learn from the mistakes of the past most significantly the sad lack of understanding that without a decent educational system geared to all age groups in our population our ability to solve our country’s problems will fail. I am an optimist, but I also believe in the power of prayer after providing infrastructure and resources to achieve badly needed productivity.

13) My view is for Detroit itself and the other Detroit’s in America every day is Thanksgiving–appreciation for the abundance we still possess, recognition of our dependence of global workers and their innovation (an American tradition) and a renewed understanding of the work required to alleviate suffering. My special pleading is to alleviate the suffering of the aging Baby Boomers like me, caught in an economic bind because we had to support our parents and our children,  were unable to reserve money for retirement and are losing our teeth because adequate dental care is not available. My generation, based on money spent, is the best educated in U.S history. We are not the problem. We are the solution. 


May our thanksgiving this year be tempered by humility, by sympathy for those who lack abundance, and by compassion for those in want. As we express appreciation in prayer for our munificent gifts, may we remember that it is more blessed to give than to receive; and may we manifest our remembrance of that precept by generously sharing our bounty with needy people of other nations.

Now, Therefore, I, Harry S. Truman, President of the United States of America, invite the attention of all citizens to the joint resolution of Congress approved December 26, 1941, which designates the fourth Thursday in November of each year as Thanksgiving Day; I proclaim Thursday, November 27, 1947, as a day of national thanksgiving; and I call upon the people of the United States of every faith to consecrate that day to thoughts of gratitude, acts of devotion, and a firm resolve to assist in the efforts being made by religious groups and other bodies to aid the undernourished, the sick, the aged, and all sufferers in war-devastated lands.

In Witness Whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States of America to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington this 10th day of November in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and forty-seven, and of the Independence of the United States of America the one hundred and seventy-second.


By the President:

Secretary of State.

Citation: Harry S. Truman: “Proclamation 2756 – Thanksgiving Day, 1947,” November 10, 1947. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project.


“In recent years the question of whether to use a period after the ‘S’ in Harry S. Truman’s name has become a subject of controversy, especially among editors. The evidence provided by Mr. Truman’s own practice argues strongly for the use of the period. While, as many people do, Mr. Truman often ran the letters in his signature together in a single stroke, the archives of the Harry S. Truman Library have numerous examples of the signature written at various times throughout Mr. Truman’s lifetime where his use of a period after the ‘S’ is very obvious.

“Mr. Truman apparently initiated the ‘period’ controversy in 1962 when, perhaps in jest, he told newspapermen that the period should be omitted. In explanation he said that the ‘S’ did not stand for any name but was a compromise between the names of his grandfathers, Anderson Shipp Truman and Solomon Young. He was later heard to say that the use of the period dated after 1962 as well as before.

“Several widely recognized style manuals provide guidance in favor of using the period. According to The Chicago Manual of Style all initials given with a name should ‘for convenience and consistency’ be followed by a period even if they are not abbreviations of names. The U.S. Government Printing Office Style Manual states that the period should be used after the ‘S’ in Harry S. Truman’s name.

“Most published works using the name Harry S. Truman employ the period. Authors choosing to omit the period in their texts must still use it when citing the names of organizations that employ the period in their legal titles (e.g. Harry S. Truman Library) thus seeming to contradict themselves. Authoritative publications produced by the Government Printing Office consistently use the period in Mr. Truman’s name, notably the Department of State’s documentary series Foreign Relations of the United States, Diplomatic Papers, the Department of the Army’s United States Army in World War II and two major publications of the Office of the Federal Register, Public Papers of the President – Harry S. Truman and theUnited States Government Organization Manual. 


Saying grace before carving the turkey at Thanksgiving dinner in the home of Earle Landis in Neffsville, Pennsylvania, 1941, Marjory Collins, photographer for Farm Security Administration. - Photo by Marjory Collins. Farm Security Administration - Office of War Information Photograph Collection (Library of Congress}. During the 1930s and 1940s some of the greatest photographs were taken for USDA's Farm Security Administration.Saying grace before carving the turkey at Thanksgiving dinner in the home of Earle Landis in Neffsville, Pennsylvania, 1941, Marjory Collins, photographer for Farm Security Administration. – Photo by Marjory Collins. Farm Security Administration – Office of War Information Photograph Collection (Library of Congress}. During the 1930s and 1940s some of the greatest photographs were taken for USDA’s Farm Security Administration.

Below the proclamation is a myth-breaking explanation from President Truman’s official library on the use of the period after President Truman’s middle name. At least one of my readers will take umbrage at the use of the period in the proclamation: library documentation may prove satisfactory. Nevertheless, President Truman has only himself to blame: “Mr. Truman apparently initiated the ‘period’ controversy in 1962 when, perhaps in jest, he told newspaper men that the period should be omitted. In explanation he said that the ‘S’ did not stand for any name but was a compromise between the names of his grandfathers,”]


Relevant material copyrighted by Joel Solkoff, 2014. All rights reserved.


On Thanksgiving: Watch the 1946 version of The Razor’s Edge, the most influential movie in my life

Premature Publication Excuse: An-as-yet incomplete posting explaining the meaning of life

It is taking me a while to achieve completion because I am writing for readers who may not have heard about Tyrone Power and Gene Tierney.

GeneTierneyandTyronePowerOne problem, of course, is if I were Tyrone Power and Gene Tierney was trying to seduce me so I do not go off to India to find the meaning of life, would I have the spiritual courage to say NO?



I am goaded into publishing this post prematurely due to the kind permission of Mary Reilly Nichols, a prominent yoga teacher and spiritualist based in New York City to discuss her spiritual experiences..

Here is a link to  Nichols’ website:


Nichols writes:

“I have been teaching Yoga since 1982, upon completing a five-year stint of ashram life under the auspices of my Guru, Swami Muktananda.

“We didn’t really practice Hatha Yoga in his ashram as a discrete activity. All the branches of yoga were unfolding at all times, so that is the way I teach Hatha: as inseparable from all the other branches of yoga.

“If you sever a branch from the vine, the branch withers. Hatha must be connected to its root, or it is merely acrobatics. Yet it is a foundation for liberation when aligned with understanding.”


Book jacket of The Razor's Edge featuring the two main characters in the forthcoming movie
Book jacket of The Razor’s Edge featuring the two main characters in the forthcoming movie

The central character in the  most significant book in my life (The Razor’s Edge by W. Somerset Maugham) achieves his understanding of the meaning of life at an ashram in India where he has an out-of-body experience.

Tyrone Power played the central character in the 1946 film version of Maugham’s 1944 novel. Although he died at age 44 in 1958, his fame was so enduring that his photographic appears on The Beatles’ iconic 1967 album cover for St. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band. Sgt__Pepper's_Lonely_Hearts_Club_BandTyrone Power is so perfectly cast in the 1946 version of the movie that although Maugham named his main character: Larry Darrell, I automatically think Tyrone Power.

I find that this cinematic accomplishment helps add validity to Tyrone Power’s out-of-body experiences.


Nichols has an extensive section on her site describing her out-of-body experiences including those that preceding meeting her guru in India. Nichols, a graduate of Harvard University, had her first out-of-body experiences as an undergraduate.


“It was the spring of my junior year in college and i was writing my junior thesis, a major term paper, for the anthropology department. I had chosen as a topic the ecstatic religious cults of New Guinea.

“It was about how ecstatic religious movements function to help people adapt to conditions of extreme social stress. Visionary religious experience, arising from the unconscious, transforms the deep psycho social programming of human beings undergoing major anxiety and stress.

“The strain can result from culture contact, especially with a technologically superior culture. But any radical change of environmental or social conditions can render traditional cultural categories irrelevant and unproductive, which is extremely stressful.

“The whole process of writing this paper had been unusually energizing and compelling. I was so excited by the material, and wanted nothing else but to read and write about it.

“One evening i sat at my desk writing, listening to the street music wafting up from the streets of Cambridge. The not terribly brilliant thought occurred:

“Doesn’t my own contemporary Western culture qualify as a society who’s traditions are breaking down due to rapid change? We must be ripe for ecstatic religious renewal.

“At that moment there was an explosion of energy at the base of my spine, energy which wriggled upward with the gushing power of a fire hose to the crown of my head.

“The whole room turned into dazzling white light, myself included. The light spoke clearly to me: ‘A great Being is in a body in your lifetime, and you will recognize him.’ The light conveyed some other knowledge as well.

“After regaining a sense of my physical body, I ran out of there, afraid. Only later would I understand that I had had a classic kundalini awakening, and learn that Kundalini Shakti, subtle energy normally dormant at the base of the spine, rises to the crown center through yogic processes producing states of super consciousness.”


Not yet prepared to describe my own spiritual experiences that led to a life-altering event when I discussed The Razor’s Edge with my grandmother at age 16, I asked Nichols for permission to cite her account. She granted permission with the cautionary note:

“I have found that reporting those experiences sometimes results in very angry feedback, so share at your own risk! “


Mindful of Nichols’ warning, the rest of this post-in-progress represents my summoning up courage to explain my notion of The Meaning of Life.

My completion deadline is Thanksgiving.

I will let you know if I complete it earlier given that I am worried about the fate of the Detroit’s Institute of the Arts as a consequences of Detroit’s bankruptcy, the largest of any city in U.S. history.

Mary Reilly Nichols
Mary Reilly Nichols

Lengthy preparation prior to getting the point (not yet included)


Note 1: It is customary for fastidious movie goers and book readers (who may stray to this site) to be warned that (despite my assertions it does not matter) the following posting is so filled with spoilers it might be prudent to stop reading now.

Note 2: For the rest of you, who actually belong here, I am preparing for Thanksgiving by discussing the most influential film in my life The Razor’s Edge starring Tyrone Power shown here and released 68 years ago—one year before I was born.

Rarely, does Tyrone Power wear a tuxedo in the movie. He stars as Larry Darrell, a man searching for the meaning of life which he finds dressed in second-hand clothes in a cabin high up in the Himalayan Mountains.

Maugham writes about Darrell, “[I]t may be that the way of life that he has chosen for himself and the peculiar strength and sweetness of his character may have an ever-growing influence over his fellow-men so that, long after his death perhaps, it may be realized that there lived in this age a very remarkable creature.”

This preparation for Thanksgiving includes a discussion I had with my grandmother Celia Schneider when I was 16 about Somerset Maugham’s novel upon which the movie is closely based.


My grandmother Celia Schneider is shown here right in an early 1940s photo. Celia is standing next to her daughter Miriam Pell, years before she met my father. As a child, Celia was the most stable adult influence on my life. Her favorite book was W. Somerset Maugham’s 1944 novel The Razor’s Edge.

Mother engraved a quotation from The Razor’s Edge on my grandmother’s tombstone.

The book title (which the author reproduces as an epigraph) comes from a verse from the Katha-Upanishad:

“The sharp edge of a razor is difficult to pass over; thus the wise say the path to Salvation is hard.”

The Katha-Upanishad is a Hindu treatise probably composed after the fifth century BC and it contains passages that suggest contact with Buddhist ideas. I am not sure I agree with the concept that the path to Salvation is hard. [What do you think?]

Talking to my grandmother about life’s meaning changed my life. Discussing this subject seems a useful way to get ready for Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving is an auspicious holiday in my life.


The book and the film are so closely tied together in my mind, especially the superb casting of the three main characters that I often think about the two separate genres as if they were one.

This is a wonderful movie—a way to getting Thanksgiving rolling toward meaning while providing fun for everyone.

While you have yet to meet the heroine, much fun involves snickering at the third of the main characters Clifton Webb who plays the role of a diverting snob.

Maugham writes of Elliott Templeton, Webb’s character (to whom I shall return as the story does) to effectively lighten up the story’s serious Main Purpose.

“The Paris season was drawing to a close and all the best people were arranging to go to watering places or to Deauville before repairing for the rest of the summer to their ancestral châteaux in Touraine, Anjou, or Brittany. Ordinarily Elliott went to London at the end of June, but his family feeling was strong and his affection for his sister and Isabelle sincere; he had been quite ready to sacrifice himself and remain in Paris, if they wished it, when no one who was anyone was there, but he found himself now in the agreeable situation of being able to do what was best for others and at the same time what was convenient for himself.”


Parsimonious accolade: I only give the movie four stars instead of five because:

  1. The music is dreadful. Every time something significant happens, a violin plays or two or three or the entire orchestra.
  2. The key spiritual moment is explained away as being caused by God rather than as Maugham described it by a generic spiritual power. (Before discussing this at the dinner table, please pass the cranberry sauce.) [More on God. Before Larry has his defining moment with an Indian guru, Maugham describes a conversation he had concerning God with Isabel Bradley (played by Gene Tierney). The conversation eventually will  appear below, following another photograph of Gene Tierney “Acclaimed,” Wikipedia writes, “as a great beauty.”


The Plot (as yet incomplete)

W. Somerset Maugham’s begins The Razor’s Edge by denying the book is a novel.

“If I call it a novel it is because I do not know what else to call it…I have invented nothing.” Maugham invented quite a lot .


Note: Last month, I celebrated my 67th birthday. Increasingly, I find myself eager to communicate with women and men in their 20s and 30s—the age of my two daughters Joanna and Amelia.

One reason I am eager to communication with this specific demographic is because I live half a block away from Webster’s Bookstore and Café where recent friends include the baristas and non-baristas who serve me coffee and organic salads, sell me books, and sit with me and talk about books and life.


Two years ago, Tom Connolly, a musician who is currently playing in a rock band in Philadelphia, shared Thanksgiving with me at my apartment with a mutual friend .While I made turkey (Tom helped), he set up a drum and cymbal set which I later played with great delight.

Tom Connolly plays as the turkey cooks
Tom Connolly plays as the turkey cooks. See

–30?–Not yet. This is the post so far.


Copyright by Joel Solkoff, 2014. All rights reserved.