The History of Father’s Day

Father reading to childrenIn 1908, a church in West Virginia sponsored the nation’s first event honoring fathers. The Sunday sermon was dedicated to the memory of 362 men who died in the explosions at the Fairmont Coal Company mines. The following year a Spokane, Washington woman, Sonora Smart Dodd, tried to establish an official day to honor fathers. Dodd was one of six children raised by her father who was a widower. She visited local churches, the YMCA, and government officials to help support her in her cause. She was successful because Washington State celebrated the nation’s very first statewide Father’s Day on July 19, 1910. As the new holiday spread, President Calvin Coolidge urged state governments to observe Father’s Day in 1924.

There was a movement in the 1920’s and 1930’s to do away with Mother’s Day and Father’s Day to make it a single holiday called “Parent’s Day”. The Depression derailed the combined holiday movement and struggling retailers decided they would make Father’s Day a “second Christmas” for men. They would promote items like, neckties, pipes, tobacco and sporting goods along with greeting cards. When World War II broke out the advertisers argued that Father’s Day was a way to honor American Troops and support the war effort. By the end of the war Father’s Day was a national institution.

Although it wasn’t until 1972, in the midst of a hard-fought presidential re-election campaign, that Richard Nixon would sign a proclamation making Father’s Day a Federal Holiday. Today, economists estimate that Americans will spend more than $12 billion on Father’s Day gifts this year.

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