PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Have you ever imagined what it would be like to celebrate Turkey Day twice a year? Probably not, but this was the reality for Oregonians in the early 1890s.
From 1886 to 1895, Sylvester Pennoyer served two terms as the eighth governor of Oregon. Pennoyer was a Democratic governor, but he did endorse the Populist Party in support of common people rather than the “elites,” according to the Oregon Encyclopedia.
During Pennoyer’s time in office, Democrat Grover Cleveland served as the U.S. president from 1885 to 1889, and was re-elected for a second term from 1893 to 1897. According to the Willamette Heritage Center, Pennoyer demanded that Oregon’s ceremonial cannon be locked away to prevent any celebrations of Cleveland’s second inauguration in 1893.
The two politicians disagreed on quite a few policies, one of them being the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. For 10 years, this act banned Chinese laborers from immigrating to the U.S. Governor Pennoyer was in favor of this act and believed that the Chinese immigrants were intercepting job opportunities for white Americans, the Oregon Historical Society says.
In 1892, Congress extended the act for an additional 10 years through the Geary Act. The new act put more restrictions in place for Chinese residents, who now had to register for and show proof of residence.
Following the extension of the act, President Cleveland ordered state officials to protect their local Chinese communities from any potential acts of violence. Governor Pennoyer plainly responded with a telegram that read, “I will attend to my business. Let the president attend to his.”
Cleveland and Pennoyer were at odds over the Sherman Silver Act, too. Passed in 1890, the act required the government to purchase 4.5 ounces of silver each month to boost the U.S. economy. Although this act helped Oregon farmers and silver miners pay off their debts, it also led to high levels of inflation across the U.S. and hindered the country’s precious gold reserves.
With the Panic of 1893 that left many Americans in financial ruin, Cleveland chose to repeal the Sherman Silver Act in October to prevent the economic crisis from worsening. This upset populist governor Pennoyer, who some reportedly referred to as “Sylpester Annoyer.”
Thanksgiving was the next issue in the ongoing saga. On Nov. 1, 1883, Pennoyer sent out his own declaration before the president could. Governor Pennoyer revealed that Thanksgiving would be on Nov. 23, the fourth Thursday of the month, while Cleveland’s subsequent declaration announced that Thanksgiving was on the last Thursday of the month — just as it had been since President Abraham Lincoln declared it in 1863.
In his Thanksgiving proclamation, Pennoyer said, “While, therefore, the people of Oregon return thanks to God for His goodness, I do most earnestly recommend that they should devoutly implore Him to dispose the President and the Congress of the United States to secure the restoration of silver as full legal tender money, in accordance with the policy of the fathers of the Republic, whereby industries may be revived, and the honest toilers of the land may procure their daily bread, not as alms, but as the reward of their labor.”
Read the governor’s full proclamation here.
Oregonians went on to have two Thanksgiving celebrations in 1893, as well as two in 1894 when there was once again five Thursdays in the month, according to the Oregon Historical Society.
OHS quoted an 1893 edition of the Morning Oregonian that said, “A man who can turn a Thanksgiving proclamation into an advertisement of himself ought to command a large salary as a circus boomer.”
Pennoyer died in 1902, but he might be happy to know that Thanksgiving is now celebrated every fourth Thursday of November.