Norman rockwell freedom from want

There is an iconic Norman Rockwell painting that captures the essence of Thanksgiving. Subsequent artists have recreated the work, showing gatherings of diverse ethnic groups, updated fashions, and even popular fictional characters. What remains the same is the large, golden Thanksgiving turkey at the center of the design. 

The upper half captures a middle-aged woman gripping the turkey platter as she sets it down to its place of honor on the table. She wears a homespun holiday dress draped with a large, pristine white apron. But her red, damp face, framed by wisps of gray hair escaping from her bun, belies the fact that she has been hard at work, probably since dawn, preparing a lavish feast. Behind her stands her husband, dressed in his best suit, poised to carve the bird. 

A table decked out for the holiday and surrounded by family, young and old, stretches out below the turkey. Ironically, the guests focus on their conversation, paying no attention to the turkey. The table is set elegantly yet simply with white linen, white plates, and everyday water glasses. A decorative fruit bowl and accompaniments for the meal — salt and pepper, pickles, cranberry sauce, and celery stalks -- are arranged in the center.

Rockwell’s painting was one of four images published in The Saturday Evening Post. They illustrated President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms: Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Worship, Freedom from Fear, and, lastly, Freedom from Want. Although Freedom from Want wasn’t necessarily about Thanksgiving, it captured the ideal Thanksgiving described in women’s magazines for nearly a century.

When Did Thanksgiving Start?

Americans haven’t always observed Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday in November, or even annually. 

Schoolchildren around the country reenact the Thanksgiving feast held at Plymouth Plantation in the fall of 1621. Billed as the “First Thanksgiving,” it’s implied Americans have been celebrating a uniquely American holiday ever since.  

In reality, it took two and a half centuries for Thanksgiving to become an annual federal holiday. Before that, local leaders would randomly set aside a day for prayer and thanksgiving by proclamation. George Washington proclaimed the first National Day of Thanksgiving in 1789 during the first year of his presidency. 

President Abraham Lincoln was the first to establish the fourth Thursday in November as a day of national Thanksgiving. In 1863, he called on the American people to thank God “with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience [and] fervently implore … the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation.…” 

In 1870, Congress passed a bill establishing Thanksgiving Day as a federal holiday. Since then, Americans have enthusiastically celebrated with elaborate feasting, parades, Black Friday shopping, and back-to-back football. It would seem the one thing lost in all this is taking time to give thanks. 

The Art of Compromise

Humans are not easily unified. It takes the quest for survival or some crisis to bring us together. Many societal rules around etiquette and hospitality originated from the need to ensure enough resources to survive the winter and fend off invaders. At the same time, we clash over the best way to do things. And most of us are confident our view is the right one. 

From the beginning of the United States, Americans have held differing views, opinions, and visions of what the nation should look like. In the 1700s, colonists had ongoing grievances against the British government. Some hoped to petition the British Parliament for relief, while others believed revolution was the only course of action. Even when war broke out, over a third of Americans were Loyalists.  

The one thing they all agreed on was the “self-evident” truths listed in the Preamble of the Declaration of Independence. The American experiment was, first and foremost, one of bringing wildly diverse people together to form a new nation. One that was not formed among people of the same language, tribe, or religion but based on the concept that all humans are created equal and have “unalienable rights,” including “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Once the United States became a political entity, American thought leaders forged their widely differing visions into a constitution and new government through debate and compromise. They aimed for workability rather than perfection because holding out for the ideal would put the states back under British governance. Humans are not easily unified. It takes the quest for survival or some type of crisis to bring us together. Many societal rules around etiquette and hospitality originated out to the need to ensure there were enough resources to make it through the winter and fend off any invaders. On the other hand, we have different opinions and perspectives, different visions of the best way to do

From the very beginnings of United States, Americans have held differing views, opinions, and visions of what the nation should look like. In the 1700s, colonists had ongoing grievances against the British government. Some hoped to petition the British Parliament for relief, while others believed revolution was the only course of action. Even when war broke out, over a third of Americans were Loyalists.  

The one thing they all agreed on were the “self-evident” truths listed in the Preamble of the Declaration of Independence. The American experiment was first and foremost one of bringing a wildly diverse people together to form a new nation. One that was not formed among people of the same language, tribe, or religion, but based on the concept that all humans are created equal and have “unalienable rights,” including “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Once the United States became a political entity, American thought leaders forged their widely differing visions into a constitution and new government through debate and compromise. They aimed for workable rather than perfection, because holding out for perfection would put them back under British governance.

The Benefits of a Culture of Gratitude

Thanksgiving is an american flag holiday

It’s tempting to criticize the founding fathers for their willingness to compromise and cut deals. It’s easy to complain about all the problems in the United States today. However, complaining does little to improve anything. Psychologists have found that excessive complaining leads to a negative mindset and a sense of helplessness. 

An antidote for complaining is thankfulness. Studies have shown the practice of gratitude has a profound impact, reducing stress, anxiety, and depression. A single act of gratitude temporarily produces a 10% increase in happiness and a 35% reduction in depression.

UCLA calls gratitude an essential practice for good health. Not only does it reduce negative emotions such as depression and anxiety, it contributes to stronger relationships, higher self-esteem, improved heart health, and better sleep. 

No wonder American leaders have proclaimed national days of thanksgiving.

The First Thanksgiving

The English Separatists, or Pilgrims, landed on the Massachusetts coast in November 1620. Unlike most European colonists of the time, the Separatists were refugees escaping years of religious persecution. After anchoring in Provincetown Harbor, their first act was to sing Psalm 100, entitled A Psalm of Thanksgiving.  

Almost a year later, the colonists held the “First Thanksgiving,” the one reenacted by schoolchildren. The surviving colonists celebrated their first successful corn harvest, inviting their Wampanoag neighbors to join them. The three-day festival, including feasting and games, led to a treaty and fifty years of peaceful relations

The Mother of Thanksgiving

The tale of the Thanksgiving celebration shared by Pilgrims and Native Americans is woven into our unique national identity. Sarah Josepha Hale, Mother of Thanksgiving, helped transform a historical footnote into an American legend. Hale edited Godey’s Lady’s Book and Magazine, played a crucial role in founding Vassar College, and authored “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”

For fifty years (1827-1877), she published columns and articles that promoted her vision for a National Day of Thanksgiving. Her magazine was filled with articles detaining the carefully crafted Thanksgiving traditions we know and love. For her, Thanksgiving had the power to unify Americans from diverse backgrounds living in a rapidly expanding nation sprawled over an entire continent. Hale taught American women a “standardized celebration” to be observed by all Americans.  

She also argued the case for a national Thanksgiving in letters to every president from Polk (1846) to Lincoln (1863). And Lincoln, struggling to hold together a nation torn apart by civil war, decided to heed her. Five days after receiving her letter, Lincoln issued the proclamation establishing the fourth Thursday in November as a National Day of Thanksgiving. 

Thanksgiving is a Flag Holiday

Since Lincoln’s proclamation, Thanksgiving took root in the United States as a patriotic celebration. However, make sure your celebration isn’t just about food and football. Take the time to express thankfulness for all the blessings we enjoy, even when life isn’t perfect. Keep the spirit of Thanksgiving alive by cultivating the habit of gratitude. Many people find it helpful to keep a gratitude journal to record at least three things they are thankful for every day.

Don’t forget that Thanksgiving is an official flag holiday. It’s the perfect day to fly your Stars and Stripes. Display it outside your home or business from sunrise to sunset. Or use an indoor variety as part of your festive decorations. 

With winter’s harsh weather blowing in, you might consider using one of our sturdy polyester flags. These beauties are designed to withstand windy conditions and other inclement weather. Check out our selection of 100% American-made polyester flags for all your winter needs. 

“The Flagmakers” is a 2022 documentary about Eder Flag, the nation's largest manufacturer of flags and flagpoles and — we're proud to say — one of our Flags USA suppliers.

On September 28, 2023, “The Flagmakers” won the Emmy for outstanding short documentary at the 44th annual News and Documentary Emmy Awards. After the Emmy win, our entire team sat down to watched the documentary again. In a way, this feels like our story, too. As an Eder Flag supplier with a similarly diverse team of people from many backgrounds and life experiences, we feel tremendously proud to see the story of our flags told in this way.

The Flagmakers Are The Ultimate American Melting Pot

“The Flagmakers” is a beautiful and nuanced depiction of the many stories that make up the fabric of our country and its flag. The short film, produced by National Geographic, takes us behind the scenes of how Eder Flag, an employee-owned flag manufacturer in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, operates — and, perhaps more significantly, how its employees feel about and relate to the American flags they make day after day.

In the opening minutes of the film, we hear sewing manager Radica — an immigrant from Serbia — say, "That flag has a story to tell" over images of flagmakers laying out stars to be sewn on a vivid blue canvas. This melting pot of stories from Radica and her co-workers, many of whom are also immigrants with complex, emotional relationships to the flag and its meaning, is what makes the film so moving.

One Flag, Many People

“One flag is not made by one person. It’s the dream, the work of many people,” a sewer says in Spanish, as she describes how a flag is born.

One flag sewer, Ali, describes migrating from a neighborhood in Baghdad he calls "The Death Road" — after 12 years of waiting — hoping the USA would provide a safer life for his wife and children. We watch as, between scenes of him sewing stars and stripes, he eats breakfast with his family, grills for a Fourth of July barbecue, welcomes a new kitten. At one point, he says exuberantly, "Here in America, life is beautiful." Months later, while sitting in front of his sewing machine, he phones his mother in Iraq to tell her of being beaten in a violent act of racism at a Wal-Mart. The film reveals in these stark contrasts, how the "American dream" many envision when looking at the flag, is still a work in progress— and for some, still feels just beyond reach, even after moving here from across the world.

SugarRay, a production supervisor from Milwaukee, says Eder is the most diverse workplace he's ever been a part of. Yet, he describes his love for America with painful ambivalence as he reflects on the deaths of George Floyd and Jacob Blake: “It don't always love you back.” Still, he clings fiercely to his patriotism and watches with sadness and horror, as news reports on the January 6 insurrection show one of the flagpoles he likely helped to produce used to repeatedly beat a police officer at the Capitol.

The Common Thread of the American Spirit

“I love America. I know it’s not perfect. But that is beauty," Radica says as she looks up proudly at one of the flags she helped produce, preparing to return to her home country of Serbia. “You don’t love something because it's perfect. You love something because it’s yours.” And I think this line summarizes the spirit of this film and the spirit of the American flag and its people.

Many of the workers who immigrated to the United States, eventually finding their way to Eder Flag, came for a better life and choose daily to put their heart and soul into every piece of our American flag that they make. Others, born and raised in the USA, work at Eder to provide for their families and work towards that dream of doing better together. I was struck by how each employee at Eder Flag takes such immense pride in producing flags of the highest quality. Their common thread is a shared desire to do good work and live good lives. Ultimately, this is not just an American story; it's a human one. And, at Flags USA, it's our story, too.


Why We Sell Flags 100% Made in the USA

This documentary was so moving for our team because it reminded us of our "why." At Flags USA, a vital part of our mission is only selling flags 100% made and manufactured in the USA. I recently had the privilege of going to one of the factories that makes the materials used in our American flags.

The fibers that make up the red, white, and blue fabric come from the United States and are woven together in the United States to make the fabric.

The fabric is dyed red, white, and blue in the United States.

Thread used to embroider the stars and sew the fabric together is made in the United States.

The factories and warehouses that finalize and hold American flags are right here in the United States.

As one Eder Flag employee describes in the film, it is a beautiful thing to walk into a flag factory and see the diversity that this country was built on.

As I toured the fabric-dying factory, I saw men and women from all backgrounds working to ensure that every part of the fabric was properly washed, dyed, and rewashed correctly. I watched as one man went through every roll of fabric removing imperfections and re-rolling the perfectly dyed fabric.

Like the employees of Eder Flag, we, here at Flags USA, are proud to distribute American flags made with pride and love for the United States, and we hope you fly your American flag with the same pride and love.

“The Flagmakers” documentary is currently streaming on Hulu and Disney+.

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