Titled Washington’s Birthday, a federal holiday honoring George Washington was originally implemented by an Act of Congress in 1880 for government offices in the District of Columbia (20 Stat. 277) and expanded in 1885 to include all federal offices (23 Stat. 516). As the first federal holiday to honor an American citizen, the holiday was celebrated on Washington’s actual birthday, February 22. On January 1, 1971, the federal holiday was shifted to the third Monday in February by the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. This date places it between February 15 and 21, which makes the name “Washington’s Birthday” in some sense a misnomer, since it never lands on Washington’s actual birthday, February 22.
The first attempt to create a Presidents Day occurred in 1951 when the “President’s Day National Committee” was formed by Harold Stonebridge Fischer of Compton, California, who became its National Executive Director for the next two decades. The purpose was not to honor any particular President, but to honor the office of the Presidency. It was first thought that March 4, the original inauguration day, should be deemed Presidents Day. However, the bill recognizing the March 4th date was stalled in the Senate Judiciary Committee (which had authority over national holidays). That committee felt that, because of its proximity to Lincoln’s and Washington Birthdays, three holidays so close together would be unduly burdensome. During this time, however, the Governors of a majority of the individual states issued proclamations declaring March 4 to be Presidents’ Day in their respective jurisdictions.
An early draft of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act would have renamed the holiday to “Presidents’ Day” to honor the birthdays of both Washington and Lincoln, which would explain why the chosen date falls between the two, but this proposal failed in committee and the bill as voted on and signed into law on 28 June 1968, kept the name Washington’s Birthday.
By the mid-1980s, with a push from advertisers, the term “Presidents’ Day” began its public appearance. Although Lincoln’s birthday, February 12, was never a federal holiday, approximately a dozen state governments have officially renamed their Washington’s Birthday observances as “Presidents’ Day”, “Washington and Lincoln Day”, or other such designations. However, “Presidents’ Day” is not always an all-inclusive term.
The story of the Birth of George Washington; from nps.gov
In 1657, an English merchant ship sailed up the Potomac River, anchored in Mattox Creek, and took on a cargo of tobacco. With her new load, the ship ran aground on a shoal and sank. During the delay, a young officer, John Washington, great-grandfather of the future president, befriended the family of Colonel Nathaniel Pope, especially his daughter Anne. When the ship was ready to set sail John stayed behind to marry Anne, thus beginning the Washington family legacy in the New World. The bride’s father gave the newlyweds a wedding gift of 700 acres of land on Mattox Creek four miles to the east. John Washington eventually expanded his land holdings to 10,000 acres. In 1664, he moved his family to a property on Bridges Creek, within the boundaries of today’s George Washington Birthplace National Monument. His son Lawrence, born in 1659, inherited the bulk of his father’s estate. His son Augustine, born in 1694, inherited some property from his father and acquired more, including an iron furnace near Fredericksburg and a substantial plantation on Pope’s Creek. Augustine found a small house on the Popes Creek property and began expanding it into a middle-sized plantation manor house. It was here that George Washington, the first son of his second marriage, was born on February 22, 1732. This is where young George lived until 1735, when his father moved the family to his Little Hunting Creek Plantation, the land that would eventually be renamed Mount Vernon. In 1738, the family moved again, to Ferry Farm near Fredericksburg.
And now the story of Abraham Lincolns birth; from suite 101.com
Samuel Lincoln came to Hingham Massachusetts from England in 1637. The Lincoln descendants moved to New Jersey, then Pennsylvania, and finally in 1768 John Lincoln (Abraham’s great grandfather) and his family of ten settled in Virginia. In 1782 John’s son Abraham, his wife Bersheba, and their five children headed for Kentucky. It is believed that their family friend, Daniel Boone, who had pioneered the first trail into this region only seven years earlier, encouraged the Lincolns to settle the area. In 1786, as Abraham and his boys were planting the fields, Indians attacked and Abraham was killed. [Abraham’s grave bears the name “Abraham Linkhorn”; there is debate over whether the spelling is a mistake, or if the Lincolns did indeed begin as Linkhorns, changing their name along the way.] The Lincolns then moved to present day Washington County and then Hardin County in 1803, where son Thomas (our future president’s father) married Nancy Hanks in 1806, and in 1807 they had their first child, Sarah. Nancy Hanks was born in Virginia; after her father James’ death, Nancy’s mother, Lucy Shipley Hanks, moved them to Kentucky to live with her sister and brother-in-law Rachel and Richard Berry. Lucy later remarried, leaving Nancy with the Berrys until her wedding with Thomas.
In 1808, Thomas, Nancy and Sarah Lincoln moved to 348 acre Sinking Springs Farm on Nolin Creek near Hodgenville, Kentucky, for which they paid $200. It was here on February 12, 1809 that Abraham Lincoln, the seventh generation of his family in America, was born, making him the first president born outside the thirteen original colonies in America. The Lincolns were forced off the farm in 1811 due to a property ownership dispute, when they moved ten miles northeast to Knob Creek Kentucky. Today a memorial stands at Lincoln’s birthplace. President Theodore Roosevelt layed the cornerstone in 1909, and President Taft dedicated it in 1911. Its 56 granite steps represent the 56 years of Abraham Lincoln’s life, and inside is a cabin representative of Lincoln’s (although not his, it was built locally in the 1840s, then disassembled and moved inside the memorial building). The memorial receives about 200,000 visitors a year.
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