The nation’s first event to celebrate fathers occurred on July 5, 1908, when a West Virginia pastor gave a sermon in memory of 362 men who had died in a series of explosions the previous December at the Fairmont Coal Company mines in Monongah, according to History.com.
Following the church event, Spokane, Washington, resident Sonora Smart Dodd, one of six children raised by a widower, went to local churches, the YMCA, shopkeepers and government officials to seek support for an official equivalent to Mother’s Day to honor male parents. According to the Library of Congress, Dodd succeeded, and Washington State celebrated the nation’s first statewide Father’s Day in 1910.
Over the years, Father’s Day spread throughout the nation, eventually being declared an official holiday on the third Sunday in June by President Lyndon Johnson. However, it was not made an official permanent federal holiday until President Richard Nixon signed a presidential proclamation during his 1972 reelection campaign.
Father’s Day by the numbers
- Always celebrated on the third Sunday in June
- First celebrated June 19, 1910, as a statewide holiday in the state of Washington
- 1972 – Made a permanent nationwide holiday in the United States by President Richard Nixon through presidential proclamation
- 2 million fathers across the nation in 2014
- 6% of fathers age 15 and over have children with more than one person
- 2 million fathers are also grandfathers
- Father’s Day is the fourth-largest card-sending holiday in the United States, with 72 million cards exchanged annually
- 50% of all Father’s Day cards are purchased for dads
- Nearly 20 percent of Father’s Day cards are purchased for husbands
- $17 billion in expected spending nationwide on Father’s Day gifts in 2020
- 58% are likely to celebrate Father’s Day virtually this year due to COVID-19
- Top gift categories include personal care, home and gardening, and tools and appliances
Sources: Hallmark, U.S. Census, National Retail Foundation