What Is the Origin of Father's Day?

How Did Father's Day Become a National Holiday?

After Spokane named the third Sunday in June Father's Day, cities around the U.S. sporadically held similar observances. In 1916, two years after he proclaimed May 9 as Mother's Day, President Woodrow Wilson verbally approved Father's Day, but he didn't sign a proclamation for it [source: Library of Congress]. The closest the U.S. came to honoring fathers nationally during Wilson's presidential tenure was a Nov. 24, 1918, letter-writing campaign between fathers on the home front and their sons deployed in Europe. The activity was suggested by Stars and Stripes, the official newspaper of the American Expeditionary Force in France. Since World War I ended two weeks before the letter campaign, the letters were delivered safely on both sides of the Atlantic.

President Calvin Coolidge made a national event of Father's Day in 1924, in an effort to "establish more intimate relations between fathers and their children and to impress upon fathers the full measure of their obligations" [source: Library of Congress]. Prior to this, "tobacconists and haberdashers" promoted Father's Day as a commercial event -- they advertised cigars and men's clothing as masculine alternatives to giving Dad roses, the flower that Dodd had proposed as the official symbol of Father's Day [source: Douglas]. Greeting card manufacturers quickly joined in. Some of the earliest Father's Day cards showed neckties as gifts for fathers.

In 1966, President Lyndon Johnson declared the third Sunday in June as the official day to observe Father's Day. In 1972, President Richard Nixon signed a proclamation making that permanent.

Although Father's Day now enjoys official status, many people believe that fathers don't need or want sentimental praise. Even when the tradition originated in the 1920s, the gift of a necktie was considered a joke. Tacky gifts and put-down cards abound on Father's Day. Research conducted by Hallmark Corporation, however, shows that fathers want to feel appreciated [Hallmark].

For lots more information on the origins of other major holidays, see the related links below.

Last editorial update on Jun 14, 2019 09:52:27 am.

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  • Christianson, Stephen G., ed. The American Book of Days, Fourth Edition. New York: The H.W. Wilson Company, 2000.
  • Douglas, George William, A.M., Litt. D. The American Book of Days, Third Printing. New York: The H. W. Wilson Company, 1937. Revised by Helen Douglas Compton, 1957.
  • GovTrack.us. "H. Res. 539: Commending Sonora Smart Dodd for her contribution in recognizing the importance of Father's Day . . ." 111th Congress. Jan. 5, 2010. (March 11, 2010) http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=hr111-539
  • Hallmark Corporation. "Father's Day." Hallmark Corporate Newsroom for Journalists. Holidays & Occasions. (March 11, 2010) http://corporate.hallmark.com/Holiday/Fathers-Day
  • Hallmark Corporation. "Holidays & Occasions." Hallmark Corporate Newsroom for Journalists. (March 11, 2010) http://corporate.hallmark.com/Holiday
  • Henderson, Helene, ed. Holiday Symbols and Customs, Fourth Edition. Detroit: Omnigraphics, Inc., 2009.
  • Henderson, Helene and Sue Ellen Thompson, eds. Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary, Second Edition. Detroit: Omnigraphics, Inc., 1997.
  • Library of Congress. "Honor Your Father . . . At Least Once a Year." Wise Guide. June 2003. (March 11, 2010) http://www.loc.gov/wiseguide/jun03/father.html
  • Library of Congress. "The First Mother's Day, May 9, 1914." America's Story from America's Library. (March 11, 2010) http://www.americaslibrary.gov/jb/jazz/jb_jazz_mother_1.html
  • Meighen, D.D., Reverend, with Tom Koon, former president of the Marion County Historical Society. "Father's Day." Central United Methodist Church, History. June 15, 2005. (March 11, 2010) http://www.cumcwv.org/FathersDay.asp
  • Smith, Vicki. "The First Father's Day: Fairmont celebrated holiday in summer of 1908." Martinsburg Journal: June 15, 2003. West Virginia Division of Culture and History, West Virginia Archives and History. (March 11, 2010) http://www.wvculture.org/HiStory/miscellaneous/fathersday02.html