Tad Lincoln saves the life of Jack, the White House Turkey

Oct 24, 2019
Thanksgiving is quickly approaching and thought this Lincoln family story would be appropriate to share. In late 1863, a live turkey was sent to the White House for the Lincoln family to feast on during the Holidays. Tad Lincoln who was 10, befriended the bird. He taught the bird to follow him as they walked the grounds. The turkey was named Jack and Tad fed him as a pet.

When it was time to prepare the turkey for Christmas meal, Tad burst into one of his father's cabinet meetings . He was crying and begging that Jack not be killed. Tad said he was a good turkey and I don't want him killed. Lincoln paused in the midst of the cabinet meeting and took out a card and on it wrote an order of reprieve. Jack's life was to be spared. Tad raced out of the meeting and showed the reprieve to the executioner of Jack.

The holiday turkey incident may have revived youthful memories for Abe Lincoln. When he was eight years old and his Dad was away, Abraham asked his Mother if he might use his Dad's gun. Nancy Hanks Lincoln gave permission and Abe shot a turkey. After he saw the beauty of the bird whose life was ended, he was very distraught. In Lincoln's own words, he never again "pulled the trigger on any larger game". Down deep Lincoln was know to love animals and treated them very kindly.

Sources for these stories are from: "Lincoln's Youth Indiana Years Seven to Twenty One 1816-1830" by Louis A. Warren, "Lincoln's Sons" by Ruth Painter Randall, and "Tad Lincoln: Mischief-Maker in the White House" by John D. Weaver.

Presidential pardons of turkeys are well known. In November 1997, President Clinton spared a 60 lb turkey named Willis. He related Jack's story to reporters. In 2001 the turkey pardoning ceremony was told by President Bush as he pardoned his turkey. In 2008 President Bush. pardoned two turkeys named Pumpkin and Pecan. In 2009 President Obama pardoned Courage and in 2010 President Obama pardoned two turkeys, named Apple and Cider.

We presume, President Obama will pardon the turkey or turkeys at the White House this year.

Happy Thanksgiving to all.
I love this story, it's amazing lol.

Mrs. V

2nd Lieutenant
May 5, 2017
I love this! My Father in Law had never had turkey, until he went to the Merchant Marine academy. He said the first time he tried it he didn’t like the meat at all! I can only imagine how over cooked that bird was! My Father in law came from a very poor family, so the best thing about being in the academy was that he could have seconds at meal time.

John Hartwell

Forum Host
Aug 27, 2011
Central Massachusetts
Throughout the 20th century, special "holiday turkeys" were presented to the President. They all seem to have met their intended fates until President Kennedy spontaneously "reprieved" his (unnamed) turkey on November 19, 1963 ... just 3 days before his fateful visit to Dallas.

Turkeys sent to presidents Nixon, Carter, and Reagan, while not officially "pardoned" were presented by their respective First Ladies to live out their lives as exhibits at the Oxon Hill Childrens Farm in Maryland.

The same practice was made official by George H. W. Bush in 1989. Confronted by Animal Rights picketers, he announced: "Let me assure you, and this fine tom turkey, that he will not end up on anyone's dinner table, not this guy -- he's granted a Presidential pardon as of right now -- and allow him to live out his days on a children's farm not far from here.” Thus began the modern tradition of officially Pardoning the Presidential Turkey.