Since the day President Lincoln declared it a national holiday in 1863, at the height of the Civil War, Thanksgiving has been rooted in nostalgia. This 1940 ad for the H.J. Heinz Co. ("An old American institution") lays that nostalgia on thicker than gravy-topped mashed potatoes.
"Do you remember how Thanksgiving was celebrated when you were 'knee-high to a grasshopper'?" the copy asks. Founded in 1869, Heinz is almost as old as Thanksgiving, and this ad finds the company leaning into that heritage with plummy prose. "Amber currants gave forth honey-like nectar" and "the stuffing steamingly redolent with chestnuts and sage" evoke a simpler pre-Depression era when the country wasn't teetering on the brink of another global conflagration. Heinz was there through it all, it'll have you know. And it's "grateful for your friendliness all these years."
Of course, Thanksgiving is also rooted in political turmoil. And 1940 was no exception: The previous year, President Franklin D. Roosevelt moved Thanksgiving one week earlier than normal in an effort to goose the economy by bolstering retail sales in the run-up to Christmas. It didn't go over well: A late 1939 Gallup poll revealed a nation divided. Democrats favored the move 52 percent to 48 percent, while 79 percent of Republicans opposed it. Atlantic City Mayor Thomas D. Taggart Jr. derisively dubbed the holiday's new date "Franksgiving." Another political opponent, New Hampshire Sen. Styles Bridges, compared Roosevelt to Adolf Hitler.
Still, Roosevelt would be reelected in November of 1940. This Heinz ad makes no mention of the Franksgiving brouhaha, though it slyly notes, "We believe in the old-fashioned Thanksgiving and in the old-fashioned American foods that grace its table." Roosevelt would move it back in 1941 to its original date.