Jul 26, 2014
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Thanksgiving by the Numbers: Fun Facts About Turkey Day

Here are a few fun facts about Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving by the Numbers: Fun Facts About Turkey Day Thanksgiving by the Numbers: Fun Facts About Turkey Day

In the fall of 1621, the Pilgrims, early settlers of Plymouth Colony, held a three-day feast to celebrate a bountiful harvest, an event many regard as the nation’s first Thanksgiving.

Historians have also recorded ceremonies of thanks among other groups of European settlers in North America, including British colonists in Virginia in 1619. The legacy of thanks and the feast have survived the centuries, as the event became a national holiday in 1863 when President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday of November as a national day of thanksgiving. Later, President Franklin Roosevelt clarified that Thanksgiving should always be celebrated on the fourth Thursday of the month to encourage earlier holiday shopping, never on the occasional fifth Thursday.

Thanksgiving-inspired Names


Number of places in the United States named after the holiday’s traditional main course. Turkey Creek, La., was the most populous in 2011, with 440 residents, followed by Turkey, Texas (424), Turkey, N.C. (295) and Turkey Creek, Ariz. (294). There are also 11 townships around the country with Turkey in their names, including three in Kansas. (Please note that the Turkey Creek, Ariz., population total pertains to the 2010 Census). Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2011 Population Estimates and American FactFinder, Table DP-1


Number of places and townships in the United States that are named Cranberry or some spelling variation of the acidic red berry (e.g., Cranbury, N.J.), a popular side dish at Thanksgiving. Cranberry Township (Butler County), Pa., was the most populous of these places in 2010, with 28,251 residents. Cranberry township (Venango County), Pa., was next (6,647). Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Population Estimates 


Number of places and townships in the United States named Plymouth, as in Plymouth Rock, the landing site of the first Pilgrims. Plymouth, Minn., is the most populous, with 71,561 residents in 2011; Plymouth, Mass., had 56,767. There is just one township in the United States named Pilgrim. Located in Dade County, Mo., its population was 131 in 2011. And then there is Mayflower, Ark., whose population was 2,298 in 2011, and Mayflower Village, Calif., whose population was 5,515 in 2010. Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Population Estimates

Food Facts

$12.1 million 

The value of U.S. imports of live turkeys from January through July of 2012, with 99.8 percent of them coming from Canada. When it comes to sweet potatoes, the Dominican Republic was the source of 45.3 percent (2.5 million) of total imports ($5.6 million). The United States ran a $9.1 million trade deficit in live turkeys during the period but had a surplus of $40.6 million in sweet potatoes. Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Foreign Trade Statistics

768 million pounds

The forecast for U.S. cranberry production in 2012. Wisconsin is estimated to lead all states in the production of cranberries, with 450 million pounds, followed by Massachusetts (estimated at 210 million). New Jersey, Oregon and Washington are also estimated to have substantial production, ranging from 14 to 54 million pounds. Source:  USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service

2.7 billion pounds

The total weight of sweet potatoes—another popular Thanksgiving side dish—produced by major sweet potato producing states in 2011. North Carolina (1.3 billion pounds) produced more sweet potatoes than any other state. Source:  USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service, Page 58

1.1 billion pounds

Total production of pumpkins in the major pumpkin-producing states in 2011. Illinois led the country by producing an estimated 520 million pounds of the vined orange gourd. Pumpkin patches in California, Pennsylvania and Ohio also provided lots of pumpkins: Each state produced at least 100 million pounds. The value of all pumpkins produced in the United States was $113 million. Source:  USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service

If you prefer cherry pie, you will be pleased to learn that the nation’s predicted tart cherry production for 2012 totals 73.1 million pounds, down 68 percent from the 2011 production. Of this 2012 total, Pennsylvania led the country, producing an estimated 34 million pounds. Source: USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service,  Page 1

2.27 billion bushels

The predicted total volume of wheat—the essential ingredient of bread, rolls and pie crust—produced in the United States in 2012. Kansas, Montana and North Dakota accounted for an estimated 40 percent of the nation’s wheat production. Source:  USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service, The following data can be accessed through this website

672,370 tons

The 2012 contracted production of snap (green) beans in the United States. Of this total, Wisconsin led all states (309,010 tons). Many Americans consider green bean casserole a traditional Thanksgiving dish. Source:  USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service, Page 16 

254 million

The number of turkeys expected to be raised in the United States in 2012. That is up 2 percent from the number raised during 2011. Source: USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service

46 million

The estimate of turkeys Minnesota expects to raise in 2012. The Gopher State was tops in turkey production, followed by North Carolina (36 million), Arkansas (29 million), Missouri (18 million), Virginia (17 million) and Indiana (17 million). These six states together account for about two-thirds of U.S. turkeys produced in 2012. Source:  USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service


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