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Free bird: Thanksgiving turkey pardons

By: Russell McLendon on Nov. 15, 2018, 5:02 p.m.
Despite being credited with starting the tradition, President Harry Truman never pardoned a turkey.

Photo: National Archives and Records Administration/Wikimedia Commons

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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. The first signs of presidential turkey compassion came 16 years later.