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Guy Knowledge

The story behind Father’s Day

By on June 9th, 2016

Father’s Day gift guides just seem so trite, don’t they?

So, as a history buff, I thought I’d take a different approach and investigate the holiday’s beginnings. After all, we all know that Father’s Day happens sometime in June, but since when? And did it come before or after Mother’s Day?

Starting with the latter, yes, it came after Mother’s Day.

Two months after the first Mother’s Day was celebrated, a woman named Grace Clayton organized the first observance of a Father’s Day on July 5, 1908 in Fairmont, West Virginia. Clayton’s father had recently passed when the occurrence of an unprecedented mining disaster brought the topic of fatherhood front and center.

In nearby Monongah, our nation’s worst mining disaster happened on July 6, 1907. The incident claimed the lives of 361 men, 250 of which were fathers. Clayton collaborated with her pastor, at what was then the Williams Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church South, to organize a celebration to honor fathers.

Father’s Day didn’t take off right away.

Fast forward to 1910, on the other side of the country in Spokane, Washington, and a woman by the name of Sonara Dodd caught wind of Clayton’s celebration that was held several years earlier. In a similar way, she teamed with her local pastor, who turned out to be a bit influential in the area, and by the third Sunday of June, Father’s Day was celebrated city wide.

It continued to be a local celebration up until the 1920s when Dodd moved away. Simply put, without her around to push for it, the holiday faded into obscurity. Fortunately, she returned in the 1930s and that’s when things really picked up. This time she teamed with manufacturers of tobacco pipes, neck ties, etc – people who would have a commercial stake in the national holiday. And by 1938, the Father’s Day Council was founded by the New York Associated Menswear Retailers organization, with the goal being to promote the holiday.

The general public was at first a little apprehensive to accept the new holiday and viewed it as both a weak attempt to recreate Mother’s Day and as a holiday more interested in the commercial gain of vendors than the celebration of paternal bonds.

It wasn’t until 1966 that President Lyndon B. Johnson wrote a proclamation designating the third Sunday in June to be Father’s Day. Six years later President Nixon signed it into law in 1972.

I find it interesting that the only reason Father’s Day gained momentum and is even celebrated today, is because of the persistent effort of one person. That’s pretty cool.

Today the holiday is recognized by 62 other countries. From Turkey to Sri Lanka to Kenya, father’s have been the proud recipients of gifted socks and homemade cookies (or equivalent) the world over :).

And this year, the holiday is estimated to spur in the neighborhood of $14.3 billion in spending. That’s billion with a ‘b’. There’s no doubt that the holiday has become commercialized. In fact, Congress originally rejected the day as a national holiday for this very reason. This was back in 1916.

Regardless, I think it’s up to you. Whether you provide a physical gift this year or something less tangible, I think a gift that is thoughtful and carries some real meaning is what matters.

Happy Father’s Day everyone!

By Ryan Wagner

Further reading

Wikipedia: Father’s Day

Business Wire: Father’s Day spending