Caesar Rodney’s Thanksgiving declaration dazzles researcher

DOVER — Some notes and quotes between headlines and deadlines…

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Quite often, the Delaware Public Archives team will wow its followers with an item from long, long ago.

Last Sunday, the archives’ social media pages featured an image of a Revolutionary War-era proclamation from then-Delaware President Caesar Rodney.

The proclamation appointed Dec. 30, 1778, as a day of Thanksgiving.

The archives’ writer-in-residence, robin brown, learned about the proclamation while doing some research for Delaware Snapshot in late October. She said she is a “super fan” of Caesar Rodney so this one was extra special.

“I got a hit for Thanksgiving and Caesar Rodney,” she said. “I was beside myself.

“I thought the proclamation was just eye candy. The resources in the archives just dazzle me. I’m amazed at the stuff I find. It’s great to be able to share it.”

She said she does not know if the 1778 proclamation was a Delaware first.

“I would say it’s a very early Delaware declaration, but I don’t know if it was the only or the first,” she said.

The document said Americans should be thankful to God for support “in a just and necessary war for the defence of our rights and liberties.”

The Delaware General Assembly, on Dec. 5 that year, approved the resolution and asked President Rodney to issue the proclamation.

Rodney wrote the Delawareans “omit … all recreations unsuitable to the purpose of such solemnity, to attend places of publick worship, and there, with decency and devotion becoming good christians, acknowledge their obligations to Almighty God for the benefits they have received.”

Ms. brown said it was an interesting follow-up to earlier research she had done on the holiday, including years in which Delaware stuck to its own date rather than follow a federal directive. Delaware Gov. Walter Bacon said tough turkey to President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s call for the holiday on the third Thursday of November 1941.

Thanksgiving, of course, is now celebrated on the fourth Thursday of the month. It has been that way since Congress settled on the date in December 1941.

Ms. brown was a reporter for the News Journal for 40 years. In her post-newspaper life, she said she has come to love the archives’ rich collection.

“This is the earliest proclamation for Delaware that I have seen,” she said. “I constantly remind myself there are more than 10 million documents in the public archives and I’ve seen about an amoeba’s worth.”

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The clickety-clack of the insert machine in the Delaware Printing Company shop next door has been constant in the build-up to Thanksgiving.

The crews that put together the Delaware State News have been putting in overtime getting our biggest edition of the year prepared.

Officially, it’ll weigh in at about 2.5 pounds.

There will be 25 major advertisers with preprints in the Thursday edition.

For those of you who do not subscribe, you can pick up a copy at your local newsstand.

Some locations will have the edition on sale on Wednesday late afternoon or evening.

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Reservations are being taken for our Dec. 14 event that is being held in conjunction with the Biggs Museum of American Art’s exhibit, “Ripped from the Headlines: Photojournalism in Delaware.”

“The Art of Making the News” event will run from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Delaware State News.

The Delaware State News will be offering VIP tours, leading guests on a tour of the office and printing plant. It will be an opportunity to discuss how we select content and the process that takes it from the newsroom to the pressroom each day.

RSVP online at BiggsMuseum.org, or call (302) 674-2111.

Reach Executive Editor Andrew West at awest@newszap.com

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