Curator's Corner Blog

Happy Father’s Day!

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Father’s Day was inspired by Mother’s Day which came about in the post-Civil War era.  Father’s Day did not have as much campaign support as Mother’s Day received. The origins of Father’s Day began in a West Virginia church on July 5, 1908. The church hosted a Sunday sermon in memory of the 362 men who had died in the previous December’s explosions at the Fairmont Coal Company mines in Monongah. The event however, was one-time tribute and not recognized as an annual holiday. The following year in Spokane, Washington a woman named Sonora Smart Dodd tried to establish Father’s Day. Dodd and her five siblings were raised by a widower.  Dodd appealed to local churches, the YMCA, shopkeepers and government officials for support. Dodd’s determination paid off and she was successful. On July 19th, 1910 Washington celebrated the nation’s first Father’s Day holiday. Overtime the holiday’s popularity spread across the U.S. In 1916, President Wilson pressed a button in Washington, D.C which signaled a flag to unfurl in Spokane using telegraph technology. It was his way of acknowledging Father’s Day. State governments were pressed by President Calvin Coolidge in 1927 to observe the holiday.

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There was a movement to replace Mother’s Day and Father’s Day with a single holiday referred to as Parents’ Day during the 1920s and 1930s. Pro-Parents’ Day groups gathered in New York City’s Central Park annually during Mother’s Day to promote the idea that parents should be celebrated as a unit. It was the Great Depression that prevented the movement from being successful.  Retailers and advertisers sought to make more money by presenting Father’s Day as a second Christmas for men through aggressive advertising of commercial goods. During World War II advertisers claimed celebrating Father’s Day was a way for Americans to show support for our troops and the war effort. The war transformed Father’s Day into a national institution though it was still not a federal holiday. It finally became a permanent national observance in 1972. Richard Nixon signed the proclamation during his presidential re-election campaign in an effort to gain more favor with the American public.  Today we celebrate Father’s Day every Sunday the third weekend in June.

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