How Father’s Day came to be - A brief history


Last month, we took a little bit of a deep dive into the history of Mother’s day and how it came into being. If you happened to miss out on the blog, you can catch up here. Since Father’s day is this weekend,  we thought it would be interesting to take a look into the history of father’s day and how it became the widely celebrated holiday it is today. Surprisingly, some version of Father’s day has existed since as early as 1508. 

Father’s day spending is projected to hit an all-time high of $20.1 Billion, as compared to a paltry 15.96 Billion in 2019, just before the pandemic (there are some other great, amusing facts about spending habits on Father’s Day that you can find here.). It’s anyone’s guess why spending has increased so much in the past two year, but my guess is that we’re all spending a little more on the things that matter most in this world - family.  

Father’s Day - the early (really early) history.

The Eastern Orthodox Church has celebrated the second Sunday before Christmas as the ‘Sunday of the Forefathers’. Additionally, the Coptic Orthodox Church and Catholic Europe have regarded St. Joseph’s day a celebration of fatherhood in July and March respectively. It wasn’t until 1908 that the first recorded formal celebration of ‘Father’s Day’ was celebrated. In 1907, a mining disaster occurred in the town of Monongah, West Virginia, killing 362 men. 

Grace Golden Clayton was the first to suggest that her church hold a one-time memorial honoring her father, and the many fathers that had passed in the disaster. She chose July 5th as the day for the service, as it was the closest to her own father’s birthday. However, there were many other services and memorials that were taking place at the same time, and the event never gained any national attention. Fun fact - many years later, the city of Fairmont, West Virginia (which is where Clayton was from), had the following on the city’s welcome sign:  "Welcome to Fairmont the friendly city - Home of the first Father's Day Service July 5, 1908”.

The Petition for Father’s Day

The following year, in 1909, a woman named Sonora Smart Dodd from Spokane, Washington was at a Mother’s Day service (because Mother’s Day was already an official day - you can read more about that here), and decided to petition the Mayor that an official day be designated to celebrate Fathers in honor of her father, William Jackson Smart, a civil war veteran who raised her, and her five siblings after their mother dies in childbirth. 


Sonora Smart Dodd

Sonora Smart Dodd and her father, William Jackson Smart


Dodd wanted to celebrate the day on June 5th, her father’s birthday, but the city needed more time to prepare for the celebration. Consequently, the Mayor pushed the celebrations back by two weeks, and Father’s Day was celebrated on June 19th, 1910 in Spokane. During the celebration, young children pinned roses on their fathers. Red roses were used for fathers who were present, and white roses were used to commemorate fathers who had passed away. Dodd also visited fathers in the city who were home-bound and gifted them with roses as well. 

The National Declaration of Father’s Day

Mother’s day was granted national recognition soon after the first celebration in 1908 - by 1914, Mother’s Day was a national holiday. However, it took a lot longer for Father’s Day to be nationally recognized. The first president to formally acknowledge Father’s Day was Calvin Coolidge in 1924. 

The first hints of the commercialization of Father’s Day was in 1938 when a trade organization, called the National Council for the Promotion of Father’s Day campaigned for the cause, and a national recognition. The council was primarily made up of men’s clothing sellers from New York, who no doubt saw the spending potential of Father’s Day. 

While President Lyndon B. Johnson designated the third Sunday in June to be celebrated as Father’s Day through an Executive order; it wasn’t until 1972 that President Richard Nixon signed a public law recognizing Father’s Day as a national holiday.


Father's Day

President Richard Nixon declares Father's Day an official national holiday


Father’s Day is usually still celebrated on the third Sunday of June, but it isn’t so throughout the world. Some countries celebrate it on different days - all the way from March to December. (If you’re interested, here’s a list of when each country celebrates Father’s Day)

Father’s Day in a Pandemic

For the past year or so, we’ve all been more or less home bound. We’ve been forced to slow down, take pause, and we’ve had more time for the more important things in life. So this father’s day, take time to spend a little quality time with dad. And if you’re not in the same place as him, or you’re still staying home to keep safe, you could get him something he’ll appreciate. According to an article by The Shelf, here are the top ten brand that dads love best:

  1. Apple
  2. UnderArmour
  3. Nike
  4. Netflix
  5. iPad
  6. Lexus
  7. Lego
  8. Levi’s
  9. Kobalt
  10. Harley-Davidson

And if that’s not your cup of tea, there’s also this really great list of personalized gifts that might be worth a look. 

Whatever you decide to get, don’t overestimate how far a call, a heartfelt word, or some quality time could go. After all, you’re the gift he wanted the most! 

[Editors Note: You could always buy our beautifully illustrated “Your Baby’s Story” personalized book to share with a father and allow him to relive the memories about the best gift of all!]

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