Geography of Thanksgiving

Caitlin Dempsey


The first recorded Thanksgiving in the United States occurred in 1621 and was spread out over three days.  The event was held in the fall to celebrate that year’s bountiful harvest, a tradition that the early pilgrims brought with them from England.  

On October 3, 1863, marking Thanksgiving as a national holiday to be celebrated on the last Thursday of November was declared by President Abraham Lincoln.  

On December 26, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a joint resolution of Congress which changed the date to the fourth Thursday in November.  

To this day, Thanksgiving remains a major time of year when families across the United States come together.

Thanksgiving Themed Places in the United States

The US Census has found that there are four places in the United States that have the word “turkey” as part of the name.  The most populated place is called Turkey Creek in Louisiana which has 435 residents. The next most populated is Turkey, Texas with 410 residents.

 Turkey, North Carolina (291) and Turkey Creek, Arizona (294) are the third and fourth places in the United States with “turkey” in their name. Two townships in Pennsylvania also can claim Thanksgiving related names: Upper Turkeyfoot and Lower Turkeyfoot.

Cranberry, an acidic berry, is considered a must have side dish at the Thanksgiving table.  There are eight places and townships that have some form of cranberry in their names.   Cranberry Township (Butler County), Pennsylvania has the most residents with 29,490 (2014).

Census map showing the location of places in the United States with Turkey in their name.

Thanksgiving Food

There are an estimated 242 millions turkeys raised in the United States for 2014 according to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (USDA NASS). The state with the highest number of turkeys raised is Minnesota with 45 million.  Rounding out the list is: North Carolina (35 million), Arkansas (29 million), Indiana (17 million), Missouri (17 million), and Virginia (16 million).

About half of the sweets potatoes imported to make sweet potato pie, mashed sweet potato, and other dishes originate from the Dominican Republic (47.8 percent).  Within the United States, 2.4 billion pounds was produced and the country had a surplus of $86.1 million in sweet potatoes.


Facts for Figures: Thanksgiving 2014.  U.S. Census


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About the author
Caitlin Dempsey
Caitlin Dempsey is the editor of Geography Realm and holds a master's degree in Geography from UCLA as well as a Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) from SJSU.

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