This Week in History: Father's Day


Ties, tools, and coffee mugs: three of the more popular gifts people give their dads on Father’s Day. Sons and daughters of all ages find themselves thinking of these go-to items when it comes to gifts. Why do we even give gifts on Father’s Day? That explanation actually comes with a little bit of history on the day all about dads.


There are two versions of how Father’s Day got started in the United States. The first attempt at the holiday occurred in 1908 when a coal mine disaster in Virginia left nearly 1,000 children fatherless. A woman, who lived nearby, introduced the idea of a Father’s Day holiday to the Virginian community. This community kept their celebration local—news of the commemoration did not even cross their own county line!


In 1910, there was another attempt at creating a holiday to celebrate fathers, this time in Washington State. Sonora Smart Dodd came up with her version of the holiday while sitting in a Mother’s Day service at her church in Spokane, Washington. She found herself wanting to have a similar opportunity to honor her father. With a little help from her pastor and the town she lived in, a new tradition was born. This local tradition was the start of Father’s Day as we know it.

Despite its initial success, Father’s Day did have a rocky start nationally. In the 1920’s the celebration started to fall into obscurity. Dodd had stopped promoting Father’s Day because she moved on to other projects. Even in Spokane, people had let the holiday drop by the wayside. It wasn’t until the 1930’s that it managed to gain traction again—this time at the national level. Dodd came back to Spokane and managed to get different businesses to commercially support Father’s Day with sales and promotions. Because of the newly introduced commercial aspect, some people thought that businesses were just trying to copy the success of Mother’s Day and, as a result, were hesitant to hop on the bandwagon.


In 1924, President Coolidge made efforts to kick-start the holiday on a national level. The next president to try and present the holiday nationally was Johnson in 1966. He created an executive order saving the third Sunday in June as Father’s day. It wasn’t until 1972, that the Nixon administration made Father’s Day an official national holiday.

So while there may be people still out there that view Father’s Day as a ploy for businesses to make money—the overall consensus seems to be that all fathers and father figures deserve a day of admiration and celebration. So go find an amazing gift to give to the father figure in your life!