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Free bird: Thanksgiving turkey pardons

By: Russell McLendon on Nov. 21, 2016, 4:06 p.m.
President Barack Obama pardoned a turkey in 2015.

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

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Pardon in the garden

The annual Thanksgiving ceremony where the U.S. president pardons a turkey became a tradition more than 20 years ago, when President George H.W. Bush pardoned the National Turkey Federation's annual gift instead of gobbling it up. His successors followed tradition over the years, and President Barack Obama is scheduled to issue his last pardon on Nov. 23, 2016. (Pictured, Obama pardoned a 42-pound male turkey named Abe in 2015.)

But the tradition of giving a turkey to the president goes back much farther. As the following photos show, politicians and poultry share a much longer, often bizarre, history.

Editor's note: This slideshow has been updated since it was originally published in 2009.