The Census Bureau’s Thanksgiving data feast

November 27, 2013
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Thursday marks the 150th anniversary of President Lincoln’s Thanksgiving proclamation, which took place in the middle of the Civil War.

In honor of the upcoming anniversary, and to help workers kill some time before clocking out for the holiday, let’s take a look at some related facts and statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau.

No data diets on Thanksgiving! Everyone dig in.

First, a little history that most Americans probably learned in elementary school: The so-called Pilgrims who settled Plymouth Colony celebrated what is commonly known as the first Thanksgiving in 1621, when they held a three-day fall feast with Native Americans from the Wampanoag tribe to celebrate their harvest.

(AP Photo/Larry Crowe)
(AP Photo/Larry Crowe)

Thanksgiving now takes place annually on the fourth Thursday of November. That tradition started in 1939, when President Franklin Roosevelt set the standard to “encourage earlier holiday shopping” during a year when the month included five weeks, according to the Census Bureau.

But enough about historical facts. Let’s take a look at some data.

* About 25.3 million Americans and 684,000 Massachusetts residents claimed English ancestry in 2012, meaning they could be descendants of the Pilgrims who took part in the original Plymouth Colony feast.

* Only 6,500 Americans claimed to be affiliated with the Wampanoag tribal grouping during the 2010 Census. Half of them lived in Massachusetts at the time.

* The Department of Agriculture projected that farmers would raise 242 million turkeys in 2013, representing a decline of 5 percent compared to the number raised in 2012. The agency expects Minnesota to lead the way with 45 million of the feathered fowls, followed by North Carolina  with 35 million. Virginia was anticipated to produce 16 million to place sixth place among the states.

Ninety-eight percent of U.S. households in 2011 owned a television, which is essential for catching the yearly Thanksgiving Day NFL games.

* A hefty 768 million pounds. That’s not how much the average American weighs after a typical Thanksgiving feast. It’s the amount of cranberries produced in the United States in 2012, according to the Agriculture Department. Wisconsin led all states with 450 million pounds, followed by Massachusetts — always the Bay State for this holiday — with 210 million pounds.

Finally, a quirky bit of information. The Census Bureau highlighted four cities sharing a name with the traditional Thanksgiving main course. Arizona, Louisiana, North Carolina and Texas each have towns named Turkey.

Follow Josh Hicks on TwitterFacebook or Google+. Connect by e-mail at  josh.hicks@washpost.comVisit The Federal Eye, The Fed Page and Post Politics for more federal news. E-mail federalworker@washpost.com with news tips and other suggestion

Josh Hicks covers the federal government and anchors the Federal Eye blog. He reported for newspapers in the Detroit and Seattle suburbs before joining the Post as a contributor to Glenn Kessler’s Fact Checker blog in 2011.
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Josh Hicks · November 26, 2013