The History of President’s Day
George Washington is well loved and admired for leading America as our first President. After his death, his birth date, February 22, 1732, began being observed as a national holiday.
Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States, and is also still well loved and one of our most famous presidents. After his assassination, 30 states adopted a policy to celebrate his birthday, which was February 12, 1809.
In 1950, the Unified Holidays Bill was drafted by the National Association of Travel Organizations (NATO). The Unified Holidays Bill was put together because now two holidays, both very close in date, were both being celebrated in February and were both president’s birthdays. The bill asked to combine the days, and that the new holiday be celebrated on Mondays, thereby giving working many Americans a three-day weekend.
The bill and the idea languished in Congress until 1971 when it finally passed. The Unified Holidays Bill also assigned the third Monday in February as the national day of observation. Until it passed, Lincoln’s birthday and Washington’s birthday continued to be state holidays in most places.
Interestingly, the bill did not ever specify if the day was to celebrate all presidents, two presidents or just one president.
Interesting President’s Day Facts
Some states, including Illinois, still observe Lincoln’s birthday on February 12, in addition to President’s Day, while other states only observe Presidents Day, and still other states celebrate neither birthday.
The state of Alabama, has done its own thing. Alabama celebrates the third President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson, during the month of February, despite the fact that his birthday is actually in April. Huh?
Almost every year since 1888, On February 22nd Washington’s Farewell Address has been and continues to be read in the US Senate. While this does not happen on Presidents Day, it is an annual celebration of Washington’s Birthday that stems from 1862 when the Address was read as a way to boost morale during the Civil War.