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Free bird: Thanksgiving turkey pardons

President Truman, 1947

Photo: National Archives and Records Administration

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Giving the bird

The National Turkey Federation began giving turkeys to U.S. presidents during Harry S. Truman's presidency, originally as a Christmas gift (this photo was taken Dec. 15, 1947). Truman pardoned 2,044 people during his tenure — No. 3 among all presidents in history — but didn't pardon any turkeys, despite often getting credit for inventing the tradition. All indications are that the Truman family ate their feathered gifts, but the first signs of presidential turkey compassion did come 16 years later.