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Each year a pair of turkeys are brought to the White House for the president to pardon—to be spared from a deeply tanned appearance on the Executive dining room table. What most don’t know is that this national tradition was founded by the youngest member of the Lincoln family and helps shed light on the origins of Thanksgiving as a federal holiday.
While researching my new picture book, “The Magnificent Mischief of Tad Lincoln” I discovered that Abraham Lincoln’s son, Willie caught a fever and died in the White House. Grief overwhelmed the entire family, even as the Civil War dragged on. To cope with their shared grief and sustain each other through some of the country’s darkest days, Abraham Lincoln and his youngest son, Tad became inseparable. Though White House staffers described ten-year old Tad as a “hellion” who regularly played pranks on his father and even hitched a goat to a dining room chair and sped through the East Room during parties, the President delighted in Tad’s hijinks and mischief.
Tad accompanied his father to major speeches, to review the troops and in the evening, reclined next to the president’s desk as Lincoln