Blog Post – Presidents Day

Today is Presidents Day or is it?  Here’s a little history:

George Washington played an integral part in our nation’s history and the people of his day recognized it.  The first town to sponsor a public celebration of Washington’s birthday was in Richmond, Virginia in 1782.  That was seven years before he even became President!   George Washington died in 1799 and Congress then passed a resolution calling on the nation to observe February 22, 1800 “with appropriate activities.”

The observance didn’t really catch on until 1832, 100 years after Washington’s birth.   1850 was probably the most publicized celebration.  Prominent residents of Los Angeles, California put on a fancy ball to honor George Washington, but it was strictly for the well-to-do.  This did not set well with those who were not invited to the ball and they sent a clear message by firing a canon into the ballroom, killing several men and wounding many others.

In 1885 February 22 was officially designated as a holiday to commemorate our first President’s birthday.

In 1968 Congress passed Legislation # 15951 which changed several federal holidays in order for them to fall on a Monday, creating a three-day holiday for federal employees and those connected to it.  The act took effect in 1971, thus shifting  Washington’s Birthday celebration to the third Monday of February.

Technically today is still “officially” Washington’s Birthday because no President or Congress has ever legally changed the name of the third Monday in February to “Presidents Day,” even though it has become more common to refer to it as such.

Abraham Lincoln was born February 12, 1809 in Hardin County, Kentucky.   He lived in Indiana for a while before moving to Illinois.   He was elected to be the 16th president in 1860 and less than six weeks into his presidency  the Civil War broke out.  On April 14, 1865, six months into his second term and six days after General Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox Courthouse ending the Civil War, President Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth.   President Lincoln died at 7:22 a.m. the next day.  A funeral train carried his body for two weeks throughout the country, drawing large crowds at every station paying tribute to him.

Lincoln’s Birthday was first celebrated as a holiday in 1866, one year after his death.  Although some place the first observation of his birthday in Buffalo, New York in either 1873 or 1874.   Even though the modern-day “Presidents Day” tends to lump all the US Presidents together, there are still several states that celebrate Lincoln’s birthday as a state holiday on February 12th.   Those are Connecticut, Missouri ,  New York (part of), Illinois, and California (although in 2009 CA stopped giving state employees a paid holiday on February 12th).

From Wikipedia:  ” The day is marked by traditional wreath-laying ceremonies at Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Site in Hodgenville, Kentucky, and at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.. The latter has been the site of a ceremony ever since the Memorial was dedicated in 1920.”

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