Thanksgiving tradition: History of pardoning the turkey

Thanksgiving tradition: History of pardoning the turkey

White House turkey pardon has rich history; National Turkey Federation is a sponsor

"Each Thanksgiving, the President 'pardons' a hand-selected turkey, sparing the bird from someone's dinner table and ensuring the rest of its days are spent roaming on a farm, doing whatever it is turkeys love to do. Twenty-two turkeys have been pardoned, and today, President Obama will pardon one more."

That's an excerpt from "The Definitive History of the Presidential Turkey Pardon," published on the White House Blog about four years ago.

Before the pardon: Jihad Douglas, chairman of the National Turkey Federation introduces two turkeys during a media availability at the Willard Inter Continental Hotel ahead of their 'pardon' by US President Barack Obama at the White House November 24, 2015 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

According to the turkey pardoning history, in 1947, the National Turkey Federation took on the role of official turkey supplier to the President. In 1963, President Kennedy may have been the first to not actually eat the turkey – he determined that he would "let this one grow."

Later, during the Nixon administration, the President began sending the turkey to a petting farm near Washington after holding the traditional receiving ceremony and photo op, although no formal pardon was given, the White House says.

Honest and Abe
This year, President Obama had his choice of two turkeys for the pardon, "Honest" and "Abe." Both birds were raised under the direction of National Turkey Federation Chairman Dr. Jihad Douglas on Foster Farms' turkey ranch in the heart of California's Central Valley.

For the presentation, NTF said Douglas selected the Nicholas breed of turkey that originated in Sonoma Valley, typical of the broad-breasted white feathered variety produced by Aviagen Turkeys, Inc.

The two turkeys arrived aboard United Airlines flight "Turkey One" on Monday at Dulles International Airport outside Washington, D.C., and began their overnight stay at the Willard InterContinental, adjacent to the White House. Costs for lodging the guests and the turkeys are always paid for by the National Turkey Federation.

After the White House presentation, the turkeys reside at Morven Park in Leesburg, Va., according to NTF. Open to the public year-round, the 1,000-acre historic site was home to one of the largest turkey operations in the country during the 1930s, under the ownership of Virginia Governor Westmoreland Davis.

Here's a brief visual history back to 2000 of the dedication and pardoning >>

Thanksgiving tradition: History of pardoning the turkey

2015: U.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks with his daughters Sasha (L) and Malia during the annual turkey pardoning ceremony in the Rose Garden at the White House November 25, 2015 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

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Thanksgiving tradition: History of pardoning the turkey

2014: U.S. President Barack Obama (C) is flanked by his daughters Sasha (2ndR), Malia (R), Cole Cooper (L) and his father National Turkey Federation Chairman Gary Cooper (2ndL) before he pardoned 'Cheese' and his alternate Mac. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Thanksgiving tradition: History of pardoning the turkey

2011: U.S. President Barack Obama is flanked by his daughters Sasha (L) and Malia (R) after pardoning 'Liberty', a 19-week old, 45-pound turkey at the North Portico of the White House. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

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Thanksgiving tradition: History of pardoning the turkey

2009: Malia Obama (2nd R), daughter of U.S. President Barack Obama (R), pats a turkey named 'Courage' as her sister Sasha (C ) and Walter Pelletier (L), Chairman of the National Turkey Federation look on during a presidential pardon at the North Portico of the White House. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Thanksgiving tradition: History of pardoning the turkey

2008: U.S. President George W. Bush (C) is flanked by Paul Hill (L) and Nathan Hill (R) of the National Turkey Federation pardons a Turkey named Pumpkin during the annual White House Turkey Presidential Pardon presentation in the Rose Garden at the White House. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

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Thanksgiving tradition: History of pardoning the turkey

2002: U.S. President George W. Bush (R) cautiously pets 'Katie' next to turkey breeder, Ron Prestage's (C), and Scott Prestage (L) of the National Turkey Federation at the annual turkey pardoning in the Rose Garden of the White House November 26, 2002 in Washington, DC. Katie is the first female turkey to receive a pardon since the annual ceremony began. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Thanksgiving tradition: History of pardoning the turkey

2000: U.S. President Bill Clinton, holding his nephew Tyler, smiles after granting a Thanksgiving pardon to a turkey named Jerry, November 22, 2000 in the Rose Garden of the White House. Clinton is joined by Nickolas Feidt, left, who raised the turkey in Wisconsin, and by Jerry Jerome, 2nd left, chairman of the National Turkey Federation, and Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman, right. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Newsmakers)

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