Presidents Day History

Feb 17th, 2017

Presidents Day was originally celebrated as Washington’s Birthday on February 22nd of each year. George Washington was born in 1731 and was the first President of the United States. The day was reserved to honor his leadership and accomplishments. He is known as “The Father of his Country”.



Washington’s Birthday became an official federal holiday in 1879, but was restricted to Washington D.C. government offices. In 1885, the law was amended to include all federal government offices.


In 1971, when the Uniform Monday Holiday Act was implemented, observance of Washington’s Birthday was moved to the third Monday in February. The initial draft of that Act renamed Washington’s Birthday to Presidents Day in honor both Lincoln and Washington’s Birthday. That version of the Act failed in committee.


A push for a Presidents Day holiday began in 1951. The day was meant to honor the Presidential office, rather than a particular President. The initial date that was chosen to celebrate the day was March 4, but that bill was stalled by the Senate Judiciary Committee because it was too close to Lincoln and Washington’s birthdays. Most individual state governors issued proclamations making March 4th Presidents Day in their individual states.


To date, the Federal government has not mandated Presidents day as an official federal holiday. However, Washington’s Birthday is commonly referred to as Presidents Day by American citizens.


Since 1932, the third Monday in February, whether called Washington’s Birthday or Presidents Day, has been reserved as the day to officially award the Purple Heart medal to battle injured or killed American soldiers. That award is made in the name of the President of the United States.



The U.S. Flag code has designated Washington’s Birthday as a day that citizens should display the American flag. It should be flown from sunrise to sunset, except properly illuminated all weather flags may be displayed 24 hours per day


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