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“The Origination of Father’s Day”

Where did the idea for Father’s Day get its start? The answer may surprise you!

Father’s Day—many celebrate it, but how did the holiday start? Although the United States officially observes the occasion every third Sunday in June, there’s more history behind the “Day of Dads” than meets the eye.

There are two accounts of the holiday’s origins. One version claims the very first Father’s Day was celebrated on June 19, 1910, in Washington state.

After listening to a special Mother’s Day sermon, Sonora Smart Dodd had an idea—why not take a day to celebrate equally deserving fathers, too?

She decided to begin a new family tradition. After her mother's death, Sonora’s father, William Smart, a Civil War veteran, raised her and her five siblings with love and care.

Sonora wasn’t content to let the celebration end at her front door. She petitioned her local government for a year. Finally, the state of Washington rang in the first official Father’s Day celebration on June 19.

Another account of the first Father’s Day took place in Fairmont, West Virginia. After a tragic mining explosion claimed the lives of 361 men, Grace Golden Clayton asked her Methodist minister about holding a special service to honor the fathers in their community.  

He obliged, and the town’s first Father’s Day celebration was held on July 5, 1908.

Father’s Day gained national attention thanks to some high-powered politicians. One such name was former U.S. Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan, a staunch supporter of the holiday efforts.

In 1924, President Calvin Coolidge recommended recognizing the day as a national holiday, yet no official action was taken, despite “Silent Cal’s” suggestion.

In 1966, Lyndon B. Johnson issued an executive order designating the third Sunday in June. Still, it wasn’t until 1972, under President Richard Nixon, that Father’s Day was officially deemed a national holiday.

There are approximately 1.5 billion dads on the planet, with 66.3 million of those fathers residing in the United States. Father figures don’t look the same in every family, of course, as many stepfathers, grandfathers, brothers, uncles, and friends are honored on this special day.

Out of the 100 million Father’s Day cards purchased annually in America, about 50% are actually bought for dads.