November 24-27, 2016

Do-Now Discussion

Throughout history, Thanksgiving has brought people together for food and conversation. Civic dialogue can be a healthy side dish, as you respectfully share ideas and examples of citizenship. List out three topics related to civic action that you would like to bring up at the table this holiday.


Thanksgiving Weekend

November 24 – November 27, 2016

Admission: Included with museum admission

When asked about the history of the Thanksgiving holiday, most Americans will tell you the story of the 1621 feast in Plymouth, Massachusetts.  But there is another side to the story, one that is closely connected to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.  

On September 25, 1789, the United States Congress passed the articles that would eventually become the first amendments to the Constitution—the Bill of Rights.

But that was not the only piece of business Congress would take care of that day.  On the very same day, September 25, 1789, Congress approved a resolution requesting that President George Washington proclaim a national day of thanksgiving.  It was not a coincidence—Congress specifically wanted Americans to spend the day giving thanks for our Constitution and the revolutionary form of government it created.  A few days later President Washington declared the first national day of thanksgiving.  

In the spirt of that 1789 resolution, the National Constitution Center will spend this Thanksgiving Weekend celebrating the same things those early Americans celebrated—the Constitution and the Bill of Rights!

The museum will have special extended hours on Friday, November 27, 2015, from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Museum Programs

Thanksgiving Day Show
Grand Hall Lobby
Guests are invited to join in the interactive “History of Thanksgiving” program, which explores the origins and importance of this national holiday.  Visitors are encouraged to participate as they learn about the roles presidents have played in creating Thanksgiving Day traditions, including the presidential turkey pardon, and what food may have been prepared at the first Thanksgiving dinner.

Bill of Rights Show
Grand Hall Lobby
Who wants to be a “Bill-ionaire?” In the museum’s fast-paced game show, students face off in a fun competition testing their Bill of Rights knowledge while an engaging host reveals the real deal about our amendments and freedoms.  

Founding Fathers, Founding Documents
Exhibition Tours
Signers Hall
Join our education team as they lead exhibition tours—taking you back to our revolutionary period to meet the people who founded our nation, and discover more about the documents they helped create.

Growing Up American Style
Grand Hall Lobby
Find out what it was like to grow up in different eras of American history. Students participate in a costume runway show featuring traditional-style dress from historical periods while describing what home, school, and work life was like. Students will then explore the main exhibit with a guided tour to learn more about kids in America.  How often did kids bathed, how they spent their days, what freedoms they had, and more.

History’s Heroes: Story Corner
Grand Hall Lobby
Gather ’round and listen to tales of our nation’s birth and our founding father at the museum’s story book corner.   

Corn Husk Dolls
Grand Hall Lobby
These historic toys are a seasonal favorite.  Make dolls from corn husk, just like children did in 18th century!

Thank-a-Vet Letter Writing Station
Grand Hall Lobby
Give thanks to the men and women who’ve served in our nation’s military by sending them a message letting them know that we appreciate their service and sacrifice.


Constitution Hall Pass

The History of Thanksgiving

Grab a seat at the table as we talk turkey! Everyone who loves to eat loves Thanksgiving, so join us as we take a look at what this holiday is all about. Learn the real story of the first Thanksgiving, and find out more about the American Indians who were living in what is now New England. We’ll learn about what kinds of foods our early Thanksgiving dinners did and didn’t have, and discover how the day was made a national holiday during the Civil War. And we’ll check out the background of our favorite Thanksgiving traditions—we’ll even talk a little football! So bring your appetite for knowledge and join us as we explore the history of Thanksgiving!

Watch online here »

Other Resources

Abraham Lincoln's 1863 Proclamation Declaring Thanksgiving a National Holiday

Washington, D.C.
October 3, 1863

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

William H. Seward,
Secretary of State

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