A History Of Presidents Day

Articles Origin:  This article is a reprint and was copied from The History Channel. The author is listed as History.com/Staff.  It was published by A+E Networks in 2010 under the title of Presidents day and they hold the copyrights to its content.

Presidents’ Day is an American holiday celebrated on the third Monday in February. Originally established in 1885 in recognition of President George Washington, it is still officially called “Washington’s Birthday” by the federal government. Traditionally celebrated on February 22—Washington’s actual day of birth—the holiday became popularly known as Presidents’ Day after it was moved as part of 1971’s Uniform Monday Holiday Act, an attempt to create more three-day weekends for the nation’s workers. While several states still have individual holidays honoring the birthdays of Washington, Abraham Lincoln and other figures, Presidents’ Day is now popularly viewed as a day to celebrate all U.S. presidents past and present.

PRESIDENTS DAY: ORIGIN AS WASHINGTON’S BIRTHDAY

Presidents Day
George Washington’s famous painting which hangs today in the Whitehouse.

The story of Presidents’ Day date begins in 1800. Following President George Washington’s death in 1799, his February 22 birthday became a perennial day of remembrance. At the time, Washington was venerated as the most important figure in American history, and events like the 1832 centennial of his birth and the start of construction of the Washington Monument in 1848 were cause for national celebration.

Did You Know?

President’s Day never falls on the actual birthday of any American president. Four chief executives—George Washington, William Henry Harrison, Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan were born in February, but their birthdays all come either too early or late to coincide with Presidents’ Day, which is always celebrated on the third Monday of the month.

While Washington’s Birthday was an unofficial observance for most of the 1800s, it was not until the late 1870s that it became a federal holiday. Senator Steven Wallace Dorsey of Arkansas was the first to propose the measure, and in 1879 President Rutherford B. Hayes signed it into law. The holiday initially only applied to the District of Columbia, but in 1885 it was expanded to the whole country. At the time, Washington’s Birthday joined four other nationally recognized federal bank holidays—Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, Independence Day and Thanksgiving—and was the first to celebrate the life of an individual American. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, signed into law in 1983, would be the second.

PRESIDENTS DAY: TRANSFORMATION

Presidents Day
If you take a close look at this photo of Lincoln you should see a couple of flaws

While Nixon’s order plainly called the newly placed holiday Washington’s Birthday, it was not long before the shift to Presidents’ Day began. The move away from February 22 led many to believe that the new date was intended to honor both Washington and Abraham Lincoln, as it now fell between their two birthdays. Marketers soon jumped at the opportunity to play up the three-day weekend with sales, and “Presidents’ Day” bargains were advertised at stores around the country.

By the mid-1980s Washington’s Birthday was known to many Americans as Presidents’ Day. This shift had solidified in the early 2000s, by which time as many as half the 50 states had changed the holiday’s name to Presidents’ Day on their calendars. Some states have even chosen to customize the holiday by adding new figures to the celebration. Arkansas, for instance, celebrates Washington as well as civil rights activist Daisy Gatson Bates. Alabama, meanwhile, uses Presidents’ Day to commemorate Washington and Thomas Jefferson (who was born in April).

Washington and Lincoln still remain the two most recognized leaders, but Presidents’ Day is now popularly seen as a day to recognize the lives and achievements of all of America’s chief executives. Some lawmakers have objected to this view, arguing that grouping George Washington and Abraham Lincoln together with less successful presidents minimizes their legacies. Congressional measures to restore Washington and Lincoln’s individual birthdays were proposed during the early 2000s, but all failed to gain much attention. For its part, the federal government has held fast to the original incarnation of the holiday as a celebration of the country’s first president. The third Monday in February is still listed on official calendars as Washington’s Birthday.

PRESIDENTS DAY: CELEBRATIONS AND TRADITIONS

Like Independence Day, Presidents’ Day is traditionally viewed as a time of patriotic celebration and remembrance. In its original incarnation as Washington’s Birthday, the holiday gained special meaning during the difficulties of the Great Depression, when portraits of George Washington often graced the front pages of newspapers and magazines every February 22. In 1932 the date was used to reinstate the Purple Heart, a military decoration originally created by George Washington to honor soldiers killed or wounded while serving in the armed forces. Patriotic groups and the Boy Scouts of America also held celebrations on the day, and in 1938 some 5,000 people attended mass at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City in honor of Washington.

In its modern form, Presidents’ Day is used by many patriotic and historical groups as a date for staging celebrations, reenactments and other events. A number of states also require that their public schools spend the days leading up to Presidents’ Day teaching students about the accomplishments of the presidents, often with a focus on the lives of Washington and Lincoln.

Articles Origin:  This article is a reprint and was copied from The History Channel. The author is listed as History.com/Staff.  It was published by A+E Networks in 2010 under the title of Presidents day and they hold the copyrights to its content.

This Week’s Podcast:

This week’s podcast is dedicated to the past and present presidents of the USA. On the program you will hear a very special speech from one of our most famous presidents. Also I found a little known OTR series called “Mister President”. We round the show out with story from Mark Twain. Sounds good to me, I hope you come and listen to it.

You can listen to this podcast this Thursday (12/03) at Ron’s Amazing Stories, download it from iTunes, stream it on TuneIn Radio or listen on your radio Friday night at 8pm Eastern time. Check your local listing or find the station closest to you at this link.

The Calendar:

January 28, 2016 – Mendez Genesis with Ed Hancock (RAS230)
February 04, 2016 – Flight Nurse (RAS231)
February 11, 2016 – The Specter of Tappington (RAS232)
February 18, 2016 – Mister President (RAS233)
February 25, 2016 – (RAS234)

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