Happy "Washington's Birthday!"
"But wait FHA, isn't today President's Day? And isn't our first president's birthday actually tomorrow?"
We're glad you asked! Technically, today is officially "Washington's Birthday," not "President's Day." This day was originally a celebration of our first president's birthday (Feb 22). 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 Stephen Wallace Dorsey of Arkansas was the first to propose the measure, and in 1879 President Rutherford B. Hayes signed it into law.
In 1968, a number of Congressmen and women proposed the Uniform Holiday Bill. With the intention of giving employees a number of long weekends, the bill passed, and "Washington's Birthday" was moved to the second Monday in February.
There was much discussion on the floor of whether the federal holiday should be renamed to "President's Day," but the amendment did not pass. Legislatures from Virginia (Washington's home state) fiercely defended the holiday's namesake.
While today may officially be "Washington's Birthday" the more popular name for today is "President's Day." You can actually thank businesses who popularized it during sales campaigns, and legislatures from Illinois who hoped the rephrasing would lead to a greater inclusion of Abraham Lincoln.
There you have it. The History of Preside... oops, Washington's Birthday!
Nathan is the Director of Education, Events, & Exhibits at the FHA.
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