Throughout all of this, Hale was touting her idea of the perfect Thanksgiving, and turkey was always at its center. The bird was as symbolic as the holiday itself: a sign of a nation's great wealth and ability to provide for its citizens.
That symbol has carried on to this day, according to Karen Davis, president of the organization United Poultry Concerns and author of a book on the tradition of Thanksgiving.
"The ‘turkey at Thanksgiving idea' is that the turkey is the de facto symbol of America's prowess, of its national origin myth," Davis told The Dodo. "But it's a creation myth that was just invented."
Davis notes that the turkey tradition was only strengthened when President Ronald Reagan began the symbolic gesture of pardoning turkeys. He did so in jest to avoid journalists' questions about the Iran-Contra scandal and whether he would pardon the people involved. He evaded the question by making a joke about pardoning a turkey instead.
Davis says that while it's good to save one turkey from slaughter, this only stands in stark contrast to the rest of the birds. "Pardoning turkeys every year draws attention to the millions of other turkeys who are not pardoned." These turkeys are the ones who end up on serving platters.