The Presidential turkey tradition dates back to at least 1947, when the National Turkey Federation first gave President Harry Truman a turkey. But that bird was destined for the holiday dinner table.
Neither of this year’s turkeys will suffer such a fate. The White House says that, after Wednesday’s pardoning, both Cobbler and Gobbler will reside at George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate.
As NBC’s Domenico Montanaro writes, President Kennedy is believed to be the first President to actually pardon a turkey. An NBC News archive search found a Los Angeles Times article dated Nov. 20, 1963 with the headline, “Turkey gets presidential pardon.” And that turkey was a monster. The paper described it as a “55-pound broad white tom.” Despite a sign hanging around the bird’s neck that read, “Good eating, Mr. President,” Kennedy took a look down at the “frightened, panting bird” and said, “We’ll just let this one grow.”
Read more about White House turkey tradition on NBC’s First Read.