What Is the History of Father's Day?


Quick Answer

Father's Day was first celebrated in Washington state on July 19, 1910, after Sonora Smart Dodd lobbied local businesses, organizations and politicians to create a day to honor fathers. It became a federal holiday in the United States in 1972.

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Full Answer

Early attempts to establish a holiday for fathers were often resisted. Some men worried that being given flowers and gifts was not manly, and others pointed out that it was usually the man who ended up paying for such items. However, after its initial celebration in 1910, it was sporadically celebrated throughout the nation. In 1916, it was celebrated in Washington, D.C., and in 1924, the president urged each state to observe the day.

Some groups, during the 1920s and 1930s, lobbied to combine Mother's Day and Father's Day into a single holiday called Parents' Day. Retailers who struggled during the Depression, however, went to great lengths to promote gift-buying for Father's Day. During the Second World War, retailers also promoted Father's Day as a way to honor American soldiers. By the 1950s, the day was entrenched, but it was not declared a federal holiday until 1972. It is estimated that Americans spend more than $1 billion on gifts each Father's Day as of 2015.

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