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A Short History of Father’s Day

Father’s DayCelebrated on the third Sunday of June, Father’s Day never gets quite the respect that Mother’s Day does.

In fact, it never has.

Father’s Day was the invention of Sonora Smart Dodd (1892-1978) of Spokane, Washington, who reportedly came up with the idea while listening to a Mother’s Day sermon at the Central Methodist Episcopal Church in 1909. (An earlier “Father’s Day” observance had occurred a year earlier at a church in Fairmont, West Virginia, but it had no impact on the creation of the current holiday.) Raised by her widowed father, Sonora felt that her father should be honored in the same way mothers were since Anna Jarvis created Mother’s Day four years earlier. The first official “Father’s Day” was held in Spokane in 1910—and was immediately met with laughter by the local media, especially the Spokane Spokesman-Review, which felt it served little purpose other than to clutter the calendar with meaningless celebrations.

Despite its detractors—and there were many—the idea of a national “Father’s Day” picked up steam when it was endorsed in 1924 by President Calvin Coolidge. In 1926 the National Father’s Day Committee was formed by a group of New York City merchants who saw the value in yet another day when people would feel obligated to buy things. Once again, the media mocked the concept as just one more example of commercialism at its crudest.

It took another 30 years for “Father’s Day” to be recognized by a Joint Resolution of Congress, and yet another decade for the holiday to be declared “real” in an official proclamation by President Lyndon Johnson in 1966. It was finally established as a federally recognized holiday by President Richard Nixon in 1972, who declared it would be celebrated on the third Sunday of June.

This year, the amount spent on Father’s Day gifts by the average family is expected to drop from 4% to $90.89 from $94.54 last year, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF).

Even after nearly 100 years, it seems dads just can’t get a break.

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