Hail to the Chiefs
By Olivia Millunzi, Heritage Frederick | Posted on 02.15.22
Some things never change, like using patriotic imagery in advertisements. This month, we see this appear mostly near Presidents’ Day, celebrated annually on the third Monday of February. The holiday started in the 1800s with the unofficial celebration of George Washington’s birthday on Feb. 22. In 1879, President Rutherford B. Hayes made the birthday an official holiday for Washington, D.C., and by 1885 it was celebrated nationally. The nation’s 16th president, Abraham Lincoln, was born on Feb. 12 and his birthday was celebrated regionally with several states making it an official holiday.
In the 1960s, the Uniform Monday Holiday Act brought Washington’s and Lincoln’s birthdays together. Sen. Robert McClory of Illinois championed the idea of shifting federal holidays from specific dates to a consistent day of the week. Presidents’ Day bridged an ongoing labor dispute, allowing workers to have pre-determined three-day weekends, while employers would have fewer schedule disruptions on holiday weeks. In 1978, widespread criticism led to Veterans Day being returned to its original Nov. 11 date to honor the World War I armistice. By the 1980s, many assumed the February holiday had been moved to honor both Washington and Lincoln and started calling it Presidents’ Day, but official federal calendars still refer to the day as Washington’s Birthday.