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THE HISTORY OF FATHER’S DAY

The History of Father’s Day – The Holiday That Almost Wasn’t Having been a recognized day of celebration for just over 100 years in the United States, Father’s Day is...

The History of Father’s Day – The Holiday That Almost Wasn’t

Having been a recognized day of celebration for just over 100 years in the United States, Father’s Day is a relatively new tradition. Inspired by Mother’s Day, Father’s Day began in the early 20th century, but, believe it or not, was not embraced with nearly as much enthusiasm in those early years.

history of fathers day vintage ad
1940s USA Father’s Day Cards Magazine Plate Picture: Courtesy of The Advertising Archives

Where Did Father’s Day Begin?

There are varying opinions of where and when the very first Father’s Day Celebration took place in the US. It is, however, largely accepted that we can credit Ms. Sonora Louise Smart Dodd for its eventual widespread success. Her inspiration was her own father, a Civil War Veteran who, having lost his wife during the birth of their sixth child, became a single parent responsible for a newborn and five other children. Having been raised by this dedicated and loving father, at 27, Sonora Louise Smart Dodd took up the cause of campaigning for a celebration of fatherhood that was equal to that of Mother’s Day. She first suggested the holiday in Spokane, WA in 1909 and then led that city’s first Father’s Day celebration at the YMCA of Spokane in June 1910. It wasn’t until 1930’s however, the holiday began have some traction at the national level.

What Makes Father’s Day the Holiday that Almost Wasn’t?

In the 1930’s, as Sonora Louise Smart Dodd was seeking to raise awareness for Father’s Day at the national level, she did so with the support of trade groups that would benefit commercially from the holiday – the manufacturers of ties, tobacco pipes and any other traditional presents for fathers. Many men viewed the holiday as unnecessary and commercial in the early years. One historian has been quoted as saying that men “scoffed at the holiday’s sentimental attempts to domesticate manliness with flowers and gift-giving, or they derided the proliferation of such holidays as a commercial gimmick to sell more products–often paid for by the father himself.” The holiday held on, though, probably less because of the efforts of merchants and advertisers and more because of the love of joy seen in a child’s eyes when they pick out just the right tie for the male hero in their life. It took some time, but in 1972, in the middle of a hard-fought presidential re-election campaign, Richard Nixon finally signed a proclamation making Father’s Day a federal holiday.

vintage fathers day artwork
1950s USA Daughters Hugging Father Magazine Plate Picture: Courtesy of The Advertising Archives
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