Today in History – November 26, 2020 – Happy Thanksgiving! What does NASA have to do with it?

To the amazing members of the Super Sabre Society,

Some Fun Thanksgiving Trivia

1. In the early 1960s, NASA started testing ways to safeguard food for the Apollo mission. The space agency came up with a three-step approach, according to NASA: Identify points in the food production process where hazards could be introduced, Determine how those hazards could be prevented, and Monitor these critical control points with frequent measurements.

The food that astronauts brought onboard the Apollo craft had to be packaged and stored properly, and essentially non-perishable so it could last for the whole journey. There was no room for refrigerators on the spacecraft, after all.

But the new approach wasn’t reserved for astronauts’ meals. Soon after, the food industry began applying NASA’s highly meticulous system to the food gracing Earth-bound tables, too.

After a food-poisoning outbreak at a fast-food chain in 1993, the U.S. Department of Agriculture made NASA’s system the basis of regulation for the meat and poultry industry, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) required the system be put in place for all seafood and juice producers, too.

In 2011, the FDA phased in similar requirements across all remaining food producers registering with the administration. It also required importers to verify that foreign manufacturers also comply with the requirements.

Today, all the companies that provide food for the Thanksgiving table comply with the system that NASA put in place 50 years ago for the Apollo missions. (1)

2. At the turn of the 20th Century, Thanksgiving was celebrated in a very strange manner. It was nicknamed “Ragamuffin Day” as people in cities like Chicago, New York, and Lost Angeles dressed up as poor people and paraded the streets.

Thanksgiving maskers, circa 1910-1915.

Thanksgiving maskers, circa 1910-1915.  “Ragamuffins” sometimes called “Fantastics” because of their outlandish costumes were held as early as 1891. “In fact, so many people participated in masking and making merry back then that, according to a widely distributed item that appeared in the Los Angeles Times of Nov. 21, 1897, Thanksgiving was “the busiest time of the year for the manufacturers of and dealers in masks and false faces. ”

Ragamuffin parades continued to be popular into the 1950s, but they were eventually overpowered by another burgeoning tradition catapulted into prominence by the 1947 movie Miracle on 34th Street. The new symbol of Thanksgiving also showcased people in fantastic masks and costumes and, in addition, hoisted giant character-based balloons. It was called Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. (2)

3.Town Names: Texas, Kentucky, and North Carolina have towns named Turkey. There is also a Pilgrim, MI, and Cranberry, PA.

4. Thanksgiving Date. Thanksgiving in the United States has been observed on differing dates. From the time of the Founding Fathers until the time of Lincoln, the date of observance varied from state to state. The final Thursday in November had become the customary date in most U.S. states by the beginning of the 19th century…

Modern Thanksgiving was proclaimed for all states in 1863 by Abraham Lincoln. Influenced by Sarah Josepha Hale (author of Mary Had A Little Lamb), who wrote letters to politicians for approximately 40 years advocating an official holiday. Lincoln set national Thanksgiving by proclamation for the final Thursday in November…

On October 31, 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a presidential proclamation changing the holiday to the next to last Thursday in November, to encourage more holiday spending. On December 26, 1941, he signed a joint resolution of Congress changing the national Thanksgiving Day to the fourth Thursday in November. (3)

5. Jingle Bells was originally written for Thanksgiving. The story has it that in 1850, James Lord Pierpont was at the Simpson Tavern in Medford, Massachusetts, and was inspired by the town’s famous sleigh races. So, he plucked out a little tune on the piano. Needless to say, it was a hit with children and adults, and the lyrics were later slightly altered to be sung around Christmas. (4)

6. A Thanksgiving mix-up inspired the first TV dinners. In 1953, a Swanson employee accidentally ordered a colossal shipment of Thanksgiving turkeys (260 tons, to be exact). To deal with the excess, salesman Gerry Thomas took inspiration from the prepared foods served on airplanes. He came up with the idea of filling 5,000 aluminum trays with the turkey – along with cornbread dressing, gravy, peas, and sweet potatoes to complete the offering. The 98-cents meals were a hit, especially with kids and increasingly busy households. (5)


1. THIS IS HOW THE APOLLO MISSION CHANGED THANKSGIVING. Thanksgiving dinner wouldn’t be the same without a trip or two to the Moo

2.NPR When Thanksgiving was Weird


4. 10 unusual Thanksgiving facts to gobble up, A cornucopia of Turkey Day tidbits, By Meghan Tankersley, Editor USA Today

5. Good Housekeeping Magazine


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