A Little History of Presidents Day Replayed

by Michael Haberman on February 19, 2019 · 0 comments


I meant to post this yesterday, but the holiday got in the way. Originally posted two years ago.

Today is President’s Day, a Federal holiday. The origin of the day was the celebration of George Washington’s birthday, February 22nd. Although an unofficial observance at first, it was made an official holiday in 1879 by Rutherford B. Hayes, but even then, only applied to the District of Columbia. In 1885 it became a national federal holiday, and the first holiday to celebrate a specific individual. The only other holiday to do that was Martin Luther King, Jr. day. Today MLK is the only person to have a day solely named in his honor.

Consolidated

Because Abraham Lincoln’s birthday was also in February, when the holiday was deemed to be President’s Day rather than Washington’s birthday, many thought it was changed to include Lincoln in the celebration. In 1971 the Uniform Monday Holiday Act took effect and assigned Presidents Day to the third Monday of February, although the day was initially supposed to be Washington’s birthday still.

Not really celebrated

Only about 33% of the companies in the U.S. grant Presidents Day as a holiday. Even fewer companies grant this holiday to nonexempt hourly employees. The biggest recognizers of the holiday are state and local governments and banks.

The biggest celebrators of this holiday are retailers who see it as an opportunity to sell merchandise using the images of Washington and Lincoln to sell furniture, mattresses and cars, among other things.

My favorite president has been Theodore Roosevelt. I will end this post with a quote from him that many may find apropos to today.


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