Presidents’ Day is generally viewed as a holiday on which we celebrate the birthdays of two great American presidents – George Washington & Abraham Lincoln. And also a time when we see a lot a commercials for sales on things like furniture & automobiles. But did you know these facts about Presidents’ Day & the presidents that our nation celebrates on that holiday?
1. “Presidents’ Day” isn’t officially “Presidents’ Day”. As stated in the introduction, the federal holiday celebrated on the third Monday in February is not officially called Presidents’ Day. Instead, it is Washington’s Birthday. There was an attempt in 1968 to officially name it Presidents’ Day. However, this suggestion died in committee. Many states, however, choose to call their own celebration on this day “Presidents’ Day.”
2. Washington’s birthday was celebrated during Washington’s lifetime. Many across the newly formed United States celebrated Washington’s Birthday in the 17th century while George Washington was still alive. However, it wasn’t until 1885 that Chester Arthur signed the bill that made it a federal holiday.
3. Abraham Lincoln’s birthday is not a federal holiday. Even though many states celebrate Abraham Lincoln’s birthday concurrently with Washington’s birthday, it is not a federally designated holiday.
4. Shopping and Sales on Presidents’ Day are a relatively new phenomenon. One thing that many people connect with Presidents’ Day is retail sales. In the 1980s, retailers began to use this holiday as a time to clear out their old stock in preparation for spring and summer. One wonders what George Washington would have thought about this celebration of his birthday.
6. On February 22nd of almost every year since 1888, Washington’s Farewell Address has been read in the US Senate. While this does not happen on Presidents’ Day, it is an annual celebration of Washington’s Birthday that stems from 1862 when the Address was read as a way to boost morale during the Civil War. This address was and is so important because it warns of political factionalism, geographical sectionalism, and interference by foreign powers in the nation’s affairs. Washington stressed the importance of national unity over sectional differences.
7. George Washington did not have wooden teeth. Contrary to popular belief, the country’s first president had dentures made of gold, ivory, lead, and animal teeth.
8. Abe Lincoln was quite a good wrestler. When Abe Lincoln moved to New Salem, Illinois in 1831, he ran into a local bully named Jack Armstrong. Armstrong challenged Lincoln to a wrestling match outside of Denton Offutt’s store, where Lincoln was a clerk, and townspeople gathered to watch and wager on it. Lincoln won.
9. As far as we know, the story about George Washington chopping down a cherry tree – and tell his father the truth about doing so – is made-up. In fact, Washington’s biographer, Mason Weems, wrote a book called “The Life of Washington” shortly after his death where he created this myth as a way to show Washington’s honesty.