The Turkey Pardon

The annual presidential turkey pardon is … weird. It manages to make American children smile as they remain blissfully unaware of their own Thanksgiving bird’s gruesome end, and it somehow gets away with making light of the controversial federal death-penalty law. It ain’t pretty. Here are five facts about the history of the turkey pardon that are a lot more lighthearted.

1. The tradition is actually not that old. President George H.W. Bush was the first to offer a turkey an official pardon on Nov. 14, 1989, after years of the White House doing the opposite — most past presidents ate the official White House turkeys instead of rescuing them.

2. The first female turkey to be pardoned received the reprieve from President George W. Bush in 2002.

3. The first birds to be pardoned were sent to the ironically named “Frying Pan Farm Park” in Herndon, Va., to live out their days.

4. Last year, the turkeys got to spend the night before their pardon at the W Hotel near the White House.

5. From 2005 to 2009, the turkeys were flown to either Disneyland or Disney World to be the grand marshal of the Thanksgiving Day parade.


History Repeats Itself (Sort of)

Thanksgivukkah may be new to us, but it’s not new. With the help of the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington, we uncovered a Nov. 26, 1888, Washington Post article about that year’s confluence of holidays, when apparently the measure of a successful celebration was whether or not one contracted typhoid. Yikes. Here’s hoping for zero mentions of the ’phoid in this year’s stories, one of which you’ll find right here by Express.


“The Lincoln Memorial was hit by gunfire during WWII. I thought this hadn’t happened; the truth had lived on in the collective consciousness.”

— Robert Pohl, a self-taught historian and blogger, answering: “What is the weirdest historical fact you’ve discovered about the D.C. area?” for our tweet-length interview. He dug up a 1942 Washington Post story referring to accidental machine-gun fire that hit the memorial. Read more from Pohl in his “Lost Capitol Hill” essays at The Hill Is Home.

Have a character in mind for a 140-Character Study? Email fwiw@wpost.com, and check out the rest of this 140-character interview on our Twitter account @WaPoExpress.