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.


Preparing for Guatemalia Bar Mitzvah, Simon Kreindler lived with my mother and me in 1952

Editor’s note: When I was 6, my mother Miriam invited 12-year-old Simon Kreindler to live with us at the request of his father. The year was 1952 when Simon arrived at our small apartment in Miami Beach, Florida after flying from his home in Barbados  While Simon lived with us, my mother helped prepare him for his bar mitzvah to be held in Guatemala where Simon’s grandparents lived. Mother and I went to the celebration in Guatemala City in 1953. The following year, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency overthrew the legally elected government of that country. Fifty-four years later, Simon, who lives in Toronto with his wife Ruby, got back in touch and we renewed our friendship. Meeting Simon for dinner at Penn State’s Nittany Lion Inn, I finally had the opportunity to approve of his marriage to the lovely and charming Ruby Kreindler, who at that point was a grandmother.  Last month, Simon published “More Than Just Words, A Memoir.” What follows is his chapter entitled: Bar Mitzvah.


Simon Kreindler and Joel-Solkoff, Miami Beach, Florida,1952
Simon Kreindler and Joel Solkoff, Miami Beach, Florida,1952

As alluded to earlier, Joe [Simon’s father] was intent that I would learn about my Jewish heritage and be prepared for my Bar Mitzvah. In September 1952, he brought me to the Miami Beach Jewish Centre where we met Norma Lewin, secretary of the congregational school. Joe explained he was looking for a Jewish family with whom I could live for the academic year and as luck would have it, Norma’s good friend and next-door neighbour, Miriam Solkoff [later to become Miriam Schmerler], was interested. I moved in, with her, enrolled in the local public school, attended congregational classes at the Centre on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons (where, coincidentally, Miriam was my teacher) and Bar Mitzvah classes on Sunday mornings with another teacher.

A Brooklyn native, 27 year-old Miriam and her six year-old son, Joel, lived in a modest bungalow on Alton Road. Miriam ran a tight ship but was a good mother and always treated me well. I soon became a surrogate big brother for freckle-faced Joel who loved to play cowboys and Indians.

Although I missed Sara, Peggy, and Maurice, I saw Joe from time to time when he passed through Miami on his buying trips to New York and Montreal.

Probably the most difficult part of adjusting to life in Florida was witnessing the discrimination by white people against blacks. Buses prominently displayed signs directing blacks to sit in the last three rows; they were forced to use separate bathrooms and water fountains; and were not allowed to eat in the same restaurants as white people or use public beaches. I had not been used to this in Barbados and it made me very uneasy.

When I could put this grim reality out of my mind, there were many new things to see and do. TV was a novelty and I often watched the “Howdy Doody” show with Joel on Miriam’s black-and-white set after school. I enjoyed roaming around in Woolworth’s and Kresge’s 5¢-and-10¢ stores with their huge selection of toys and was fascinated by the escalators in Burdines Department store where Joe sometimes took me shopping when he visited Miami. Supermarkets with their endless varieties of food were also intriguing but I was particularly fond of the corner store near Miriam’s that sold my favourite dessert – miniature cans of fruit cocktail. It was a treat to wander on Lincoln Road (now a pedestrian mall) past store after store with their doors wide open, blowing cold air out in an attempt to lure customers inside. Even as a 12-year-old I was struck by this wastefulness, knowing that electricity in Barbados was so expensive.

On Friday night, Miriam always lit candles and served a traditional Shabbat dinner. On Saturday morning, service at Temple Emanuel, next door to the congregational school, was followed by a lunch of cold  chicken sandwiches on challah slathered with mayonnaise. So delicious I can still taste them 60 years later.

Saturday night roller-skating in the park across the street from Miriam’s home was a popular activity for the neighbourhood youngsters and I joined a throng of other kids who skated around and around the four adjoining tennis courts until the music was turned off around 10 PM. Sundays were reserved for swimming at one of the hotel pools on the Beach where Miriam and Norma, a divorced, blond bombshell, rented a cabana. In retrospect, I suspect both were anxious to meet men because neither ever left their deck chairs to venture into the pool. Because Joel could barely swim, I amused myself by jumping off the diving board or searching for loose change that I sometimes found at the bottom of the pool.

Halloween was unknown in Barbados but that fall I was introduced to the holiday by Harris, a neighbourhood peer I had befriended. He dressed up as the Grim Reaper, wearing a sheet over his head and carrying a scythe and I, as Father Time, wearing a sandwich board decorated with clocks front and back. Although the treats were great, I remember feeling a little stupid walking around the neighbourhood in costume.

The academic standards at Dade Junior High, the public school I attended, were so much lower than those at Lodge, I hardly had to study the entire year and while I enjoyed the “vacation” this permitted, being in a co-ed environment was even better, especially since our music teacher allowed us to play spin the bottle in class. Congregational school was an entirely different matter as Miriam took her job seriously and expected me to work hard. In my Bar Mitzvah class I studied my Torah portion and maftir, and rehearsed with the help of an audiotape my instructor had prepared.

I had many wonderful experiences that year: eating at the famous Wolfie’s Delicatessen with Joe when he was in town; visiting the Parrot  Jungle; watching Jai Lai and the dog races on TV; and “almost” rubbing shoulders with the famous boxer, Rocky Graziano, who supposedly owned the large house just down the street from Miriam’s. I witnessed the northward expansion of the Collins Avenue hotel strip and the beginning decline of the smaller hotels that now comprise the Art Deco district. By the end of my stay, I had become very fond of Miriam, Joel, and Norma, and knew I would miss them when I returned home.

Family in Guatemalia for my Bar Mitzvah. Standing L-R: José Habe, aunt Lily, Sara,   my grandparents, Joe, Sarita and Abie Habie. Sitting: Joel Solkoff, Zakiya Habie. Carol Gerstenhaber, Marice, and Miriam Solkoff

At the beginning of August 1953, my parents and Maurice [Simon’s brother] met me in Miami and we flew to Guatemala. My Bar Mitzvah took place at the Hebrew Centre in Guatemala City on August 8th. My grandparents and my Uncle Edy and Aunt Lily were there, along with many of their friends. To show their appreciation for all that she had done for me, my parents invited Miriam and Joel to join us, and they came too. A Kiddush  lunch followed the morning service and there was a dinner in the evening. I know this not because I remember it but only because I have a copy of the invitation! The only memories I have are of a few of the gifts I received, a camera from my uncle and aunt, a biography of Chaim Weitzman from Miriam, and a blue Parker fountain pen with my name engraved on it.

I learned practically nothing at Dade Jr. High the year I was there and paid dearly for it when I returned to Lodge in September 1953. The headmaster decided I was too far behind to be promoted and kept me back in second form. I was disappointed, but in retrospect it was probably a good thing because had I been promoted, I would have been only 16 when I graduated and probably too immature to start university.

— from More Than Just Words, A Memoir by Simon Kreindler

Copyright © 2013 by Simon Kreindler. All rights reserved.