Today we look into the history of Father’s Day. Sadly, retailers and marketers, in an effort to make a quick buck, have bastardized the original meaning of Father’s Day. A holiday that was supposed to honor dad and enumerate his special qualities now is used to sell chili pepper ties and shop vacs. Hopefully, by understanding why the concept of Father’s Day was created, we can better celebrate and honor the fathers who raised us into men.
There are two stories of when the first Father’s Day was celebrated. According to some accounts, the first Father’s Day was celebrated in Washington state on June 19, 1910. A woman by the name of Sonora Smart Dodd came up with the idea of honoring and celebrating her father while listening to a Mother’s Day sermon at the church in 1909. She felt as though mothers were getting all the acclaim while fathers were equally deserving of a day of praise.
Sonora’s dad was quite a man. William Smart, a veteran of the Civil War, was left a widower when his wife died while giving birth to their sixth child. He went on to raise the six children by himself on their small farm in Washington. To show her appreciation for all the hard work and love William gave to her and her siblings, Sonora thought there should be a day to pay homage to him and other dads like him. She initially suggested June 5th, the anniversary of her father’s death to be the designated day to celebrate Father’s Day, but due to some bad planning, the celebration in Spokane, Washington was deferred to the third Sunday in June.
The other story of the first Father’s Day in America happened all the way on the other side of the country in Fairmont, West Virginia on July 5, 1908. Grace Golden Clayton suggested to the minister of the local Methodist church that they hold services to celebrate fathers after a deadly mine explosion killed 361 men.
While Father’s Day was celebrated locally in several communities across the country, unofficial support to make the celebration a national holiday began almost immediately. William Jennings Bryant was one of its staunchest proponents. In 1924, President Calvin “Silent Cal” Coolidge recommended that Father’s Day become a national holiday. But no official action was taken.
In 1966, Lyndon B. Johnson, through an executive order, designated the third Sunday in June as the official day to celebrate Father’s Day. However, it wasn’t until 1972, during the Nixon administration, that Father’s Day was officially recognized as a national holiday.
This Father’s Day, don’t just buy your Pops a crappy “World’s Best Dad” mug. Write him a card expressing some of the things you love and admire about him. Nothing mushy. Just tell him that you’re glad to be his son/daughter.