Make Mine Turkey

Part of the Pets at the White House series

Unlike President Coolidge, President Lincoln received a live turkey for the family’s Christmas dinner (Thanksgiving wasn’t a holiday yet–President Lincoln would be the president to initiate at the end of his time as president).

President Lincoln’s 10-year-old son Tad took one look at the turkey and named it Jack. He then taught it to follow him around the White House lawn. On Christmas Eve, Tad begged President Lincoln not to kill Jack. President Lincoln saved Jack’s life, and wrote a reprieve for him on a card, which Tad gave to the cook.

President Lincoln’s son Tad

A year later, on election day in 1864, President Lincoln saw Jack visiting with soldiers who were lined up to vote. Lincoln asked Tad if the Jack was voting too. Tad said, “O, no; he isn’t of age yet.”

Statue honoring Jack in Connecticut

President Lincoln’s pardoning Jack inspired later presidents to pardon their turkeys on Thanksgiving. This website has good pictures of the presidents through the years pardoning turkeys.

Author: Kathleen Vincenz