5 Facts We Bet You Didn’t Know About President’s Day

Happy President’s Day…sort of!

“A morsel of genuine history is a thing so rare as to be always valuable.”

Thomas Jefferson

Thanks to “genuine history,” preserved through high-resolution images stored in a variety of digital archives, here are 5 facts (with original images!) about President’s Day that we bet you didn’t know…



1.  There’s no such thing as President’s Day.

The official holiday is actually Washington’s Birthday.  There was an attempt in 1968 to officially name it Presidents’ Day. The suggestion died in committee, but many prefer to call it by the more popular name of “Presidents’ Day.”


 2.  Washington’s actual birthday isn’t even February 22.

Washington’s actual birthday is February 11.  Congress began officially honoring George Washington by an annual reading of his inaugural address every year on February 22.  The official holiday observance of his “birthday” was then added to the list of federal holidays in an act of Congress in 1879.

(Images and information thanks to the National Archives:  http://www.archives.gov/legislative/features/washington/
3.  Unpaid “government furlough” isn’t a new phenomena.

“Federal Holiday” did not originally equal PAID holiday.  As this impassioned plea to Congress in 1878 on behalf of the workers in the Washington Navy Yard attests, it seems that the practice of providing leave without pay is something of a tradition in Washington.

(Images and information thanks to the National Archives:  http://www.archives.gov/legislative/features/washington/)
nixon library
4.  No other presidents are actually officially honored on Washington’s Birthday.  Not even Abraham Lincoln.  Or Richard Nixon.

In fact, the subject didn’t even come up for debate in Congress until 1968.  Lincoln’s Birthday is a state holiday in places like Illinois, and many in Congress supported joining the two days as a way of giving equal recognition to two of America’s most famous presidents. Senator McClory of Illinois was among the measure’s major proponents, and he even (unsuccessfully) floated the idea of renaming the holiday “President’s Day.”  Nixon himself specifically proclaimed the holiday as Washington’s Birthday in an Executive Order in 1971.

Although his library is celebrating all U.S. Presidents today.  Complete with a slice of cherry pie.


5.  Finally, Congress established the 3rd Monday in February as Washington’s Birthday.

There was great debate over this change, in part spurred by the idea that American schoolchildren would forget the real date of Washington’s Birthday (we certainly did, so this was a pretty accurate presumption.)

Ultimately, however, the Uniform Holiday Act of 1968 set (almost) all federal holidays to occur on Mondays.  Apparently for the benefit of American workers.

“The three-day span of leisure time . . . would allow our citizens greater participation in their hobbies as well as in educational and cultural activities.”

(Images and information thanks to “By George, it IS Washington’s Birthday!“)placeholder

We hope you’re enjoying your 3-day weekend as well!

Working anyway? For inspiration, click here to check out our collection of a few places you could be working instead on this holiday weekend.

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