A Brief History of Father’s Day

by Brett & Kate McKay on June 11, 2008 · 10 comments

in Fatherhood, Relationships & Family

Photo by McPhedran

Father’s Day is coming up, so in honor of dear old dad, the Art of Manliness is presenting a series of father-themed posts. Today we look into the history of Father’s Day. Sadly, retailers and marketers, in an effort to make a quick buck, have bastardized the original meaning of Father’s Day. A holiday that was supposed to honor dad and enumerate his special qualities, now is used to sell chili pepper ties and shop vacs. Hopefully by understanding why the concept of Father’s Day was created, we can better celebrate and honor the fathers who raised us into men.

The History of Father’s Day in the United States

There are two stories of when the first Father’s Day was celebrated. According to some accounts, the first Father’s Day was celebrated in Washington state on June 19, 1910. A woman by the name of Sonora Smart Dodd came up with the idea of honoring and celebrating her father while listening to a Mother’s Day sermon at church in 1909. She felt as though mothers were getting all the acclaim while fathers were equally deserving of a day of praise (She would probably be displeased that Mother’s Day still gets the lion’s share of attention).

Sonora’s dad was quite a man. William Smart, a veteran of the Civil War, was left a widower when his wife died while giving birth to their sixth child. He went on to raise the six children by himself on their small farm in Washington. To show her appreciation for all the hard work and love William gave to her and her siblings, Sonora thought there should be a day to pay homage to him and other dads like him. She initially suggested June 5th, the anniversary of her father’s death to be the designated day to celebrate Father’s Day, but due to some bad planning, the celebration in Spokane, Washington was deferred to the third Sunday in June.

The other story of the first Father’s Day in America happened all the way on the other side of the country in Fairmont, West Virginia on July 5, 1908. Grace Golden Clayton suggested to the minister of the local Methodist church that they hold services to celebrate fathers after a deadly mine explosion killed 361 men.

While Father’s Day was celebrated locally in several communities across the country, unofficial support to make the celebration a national holiday began almost immediately. William Jennings Bryant was one of its staunchest proponents. In 1924, President Calvin “Silent Cal” Coolidge recommended that Father’s Day become a national holiday. But no official action was taken.

In 1966, Lyndon B. Johnson, through an executive order, designated the third Sunday in June as the official day to celebrate Father’s Day. However, it wasn’t until 1972, during the Nixon administration, that Father’s Day was officially recognized as a national holiday.

Father’s Day Around The World

Other countries also picked up on the idea of Father’s Day. While many followed suit by celebrating it on the third Sunday in June, some decided to honor dad on different dates. So, to make sure you know when to pay your respects to dear old dad wherever you may be, here’s a list of the dates Father’s Day is celebrated across the world.

  • March 14- Iran
  • March 19- Bolivia, Honduras, Italy, Lichtenstein, Portugal, Spain
  • May 8- South Korea
  • First Sunday in June- Lithuania
  • Second Sunday in June- Austria, Ecuador, Belgium
  • Third Sunday in June- Antigua, Bahamas, Bangladesh, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Columbia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, France, Greece, Guyana, Hong Kong, India, Ireland, Jamaica, Japan, Malaysia, Malta, Mauritius, Mexico, Netherlands, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Puerto Rico, Saint Vincent, Singapore, Slovakia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Trinidad, Turkey, United Kingdom, Venezuela, Zimbabwe
  • June 17- El Salvador, Guatemala
  • June 23- Nicaragua, Poland, Uganda
  • Second Sunday in July- Uruguay
  • Last Sunday in July- Dominican Republic
  • Second Sunday in August- Brazil
  • August 8- Taiwan, China
  • August 24- Argentina
  • First Sunday in September- Australia, New Zealand
  • New Moon of September- Nepal
  • First Sunday in October- Luxembourg
  • Second Sunday in November- Estonia, Finland, Norway, Sweden
  • December 5- Thailand

This Father’s Day, don’t just buy your Pops a crappy “World’s Best Dad” mug. Write him a card expressing some of the things you love and admire about him. Nothing mushy. Just tell him that you’re glad to be his son.


{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jon Sterling June 11, 2008 at 9:21 pm

Great post on the tradition of Father’s Day. Just a little correction, the term for a man who has lost his wife is “widower”, not “widow”.


2 kamil June 12, 2008 at 4:15 am

You forgot about Germany: Father´s day is on the second thursday before Pentecost here.



3 Chad June 12, 2008 at 4:43 am

I work in Fairmont. I used to drive by that church just about every day. Thank you for sharing this brief history.

4 Mariano June 12, 2008 at 9:31 am

I’m from Argentina and fathers day is the hold on the second Sunday of June (this Sunday)
I know because it will be my first father’s day as a father :-)

Nice post BTW

5 Kevin C June 12, 2008 at 9:34 am

New history of fathers day.
Family court

Me: Oh no not this place again.

Ex’s lawyer: Mr. Kevin, have we repented of our abusive ways?

Me: Not sure, did you take an anger management class or something? You seem like a nice guy.

Ex’ lawyer: Don’t be funny Mr. Kevin, I was referring to you.

Me: Your kidding, this is a joke right? That woman has never been abused since I’ve known her.

Ex’s lawyer: I see so no regrets for your very inappropriate behavior.

Me: You’re kidding right?

Judge: Let’s move on.

Ex’s lawyer: So Mr. Kevin, how do you explain the children’s fear of you?

Me: What children?

Ex’s Lawyer: Your children Mr. Kevin.

Me: What the hell, sorry your honor. What the heck are you talking about?

Ex’s lawyer: Mr. Kevin we interviewed your children and they appear to be very afraid of you.

Me: That’s new to me. (Thinking to myself, wonder if the interview took place during the divorce party at the fancy hotel. After a nice ice cream treat, mommy crying, mommy telling the kids that dad broke her arm. Mommy being awarded a house full of new furniture for being an abuse victim. Maybe it was while the new school where she enrolled the kids was going on lock down because of her pending divorce from an abusive man)

Ex’s lawyer: Mr. Kevin this is a very serious matter.

Me: Under my breath. (What the heck is going on here? Why is my ex looking like an abandoned nun? What did she/they do to my kids during the brief period I agreed to stay away?) Is it lunch time yet?

Ex’s lawyer: Mr. Kevin, do you have more important things to do right now?

Me: No (Where better to be then my own lynching?)

Ex’s lawyer: Mr. Kevin, surely you’re not surprised that your children have asked to stay with their mother rather then go with you.

Me: I am shocked. (Not really, what kid wouldn’t prefer to be with the parent they can smack across the face vs. a parent who try’s to introduce discipline? Or the parent who allows the girls 7&11 to consider belly button rings vs. the parent who makes the girls wear one piece swim suits?)

Judge: Alright let’s take a break for lunch.

Me: Thank God. I wonder where my kids are.

6 Jenny July 10, 2008 at 10:54 pm

I never knew it had that kind of history. I thought it was commercially made up.

7 Jaleyn April 20, 2010 at 4:29 pm

My Father is my hero and he always has been… God bless him he will be 86 Lord willing in Sept. He is strong and brave and very gentle. I am thankful every day for him!!!

8 Guloulung Rongmei June 11, 2013 at 1:15 am

My father is indeed the best model I ever have in this universe. He has a great skills in speaking and convincing people. The most admirable character in him is that, he does what he speaks.
God Bless!

9 Arun Kumar Prasad June 16, 2013 at 4:40 am

My dad’s childhood was very turbulent due to my Grand Pa’s untimely death. My Grand mother looked after her three children by doing a teaching job in a local school. He did a hard labour to give good education to his children. Now my dad is no more. His memories will linger in my heart till I’m alive on this earth. May God rest him in peace.

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