Little Bits of History

Dad’s Day

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 19, 2014
Sonora Smart Dodd

Sonora Smart Dodd

June 19, 1910: The first Father’s Day is celebrated in Spokane, Washington. Anna Jarvis began the modern tradition of honoring a parent when she first celebrated Mother’s Day in 1908 in Grafton West Virginia. Her campaign to get this holiday recognized began in 1905, the year her mother died. In an effort to recognize other family members, Sonora Smart Dodd lobbied to have a Father’s Day, too. She was the daughter of US Civil War veteran William Jackson Smart. He was also a single parent who successfully raised six children in their Arkansas hometown of Jenny Lind. After hearing an inspiring sermon at her church about Mother’s Day in 1909, Dodd began a campaign to honor her father.

Her first suggestion for the date of this tribute was June 5, her father’s birthday. The pastor responded positively, but needed more time to prepare a sermon and the third Sunday in June was chosen. In 1910, the YMCA in Spokane officially commemorated fathers. The idea was not initially successful and Dodd stopped promoting it in the 1920s as she became more involved in her studies. The holiday faded into obscurity, even in Spokane. By the 1930s, Dodd returned to Spokane and began to revive the celebration. She enlisted the help of manufacturers who would benefit from the holiday, such as makers of ties, tobacco pipes, and other traditional presents to fathers.

By 1938, the Father’s Day Council was founded by the New York Associated Men’s Wear Retailers who helped to promote the day. Many Americans resisted the idea, seeing it only as a way for merchants to have the same success they enjoyed with Mother’s Day, something that irked Jarvis to the point of trying to eradicate her own celebration of Mothers. The trade groups did not give up. In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation creating a national holiday to celebrate mothers. A bill to also celebrate fathers was introduced into Congress in 1913 and even though Wilson went to Spokane in 1916 to honor fathers, Congress did not pass the bill seeing it only as a commercial opportunity they did not wish to perpetuate.

President Coolidge recommended Father’s Day be observed, but did not issue any official proclamation to that end. Two earlier attempts had been defeated in Congress when Margaret Chase Smith proposed again the celebration in 1957. It was not until 1966 when President Johnson issued the first presidential proclamation designated the third Sunday in June as the day for the event. Six years later, it was finally made an official permanent holiday when President Nixon signed it into law. This year, the day was celebrated on June 15. It’s hard to know how many ties were given as gifts.

My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person, he believed in me. – Jim Valvano

When a father gives to his son, both laugh; when a son gives to his father, both cry. – William Shakespeare

One father is more than a hundred schoolmasters. – George Herbert

It doesn’t matter who my father was; it matters who I remember he was. – Anne Sexton

Also on this day: NASCAR – In 1949, NASCAR begins.
Julius and Ethel – In 1953, the Rosenbergs were executed.
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis – In 1939, Lou Gehrig’s illness was named.
Emancipation Proclamation, a Bit Late – In 1865, the people of Galveston were informed of the proclamation.


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