In 1789, President Washington was the first president to proclaim a day of national thanksgiving, which happened to be Nov. 26. His proclamation expressed both gratitude and hopes that the national government could be "a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed..."
In 1863, President Lincoln declared Thanksgiving to fall on the last Thursday of November, and the modern holiday was created. That declaration was typically followed by a similar declaration from the president each year. On Nov. 26, 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt signed a bill officially mandating that the national Thanksgiving holiday fall on the fourth Thursday of November. Now, the President typically pardons a turkey, which gets to live out its days on a farm.
This year, AAA predicts that 43.4 million Americans will travel more than 50 miles for Thanksgiving, with the biggest travel day falling on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. According to the projections, 90 percent of travelers are expected to travel by car, and the average distance traveled will be 601 miles.