MNN Galleries

Free bird: Thanksgiving turkey pardons

By: Russell McLendon on Nov. 26, 2019, 11:14 a.m.
Trump pardons Thanksgiving turkey Drumstick, 2017

Photo: JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images

1 of 15

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 have followed tradition over the years. (Pictured, President Donald Trump pardons a turkey in 2017.)

But the tradition of giving a turkey to the president goes back much further. 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.