Father’s Day & Father of the Year

Introduction: Gena Philibert-Ortega is a genealogist and author of the book “From the Family Kitchen.” In this blog article, Gena writes about the origins of Father’s Day as a national holiday, and the special honor “Father of the Year.”

What are your plans this Sunday for Father’s Day? You might be surprised to learn that Father’s Day is actually a fairly recent holiday. Although a celebration of fathers was held on 19 June 1910 in Spokane, Washington, it wasn’t until President Richard Nixon signed a proclamation in 1972 that the third Sunday of June was permanently set aside as Father’s Day, a national holiday.

Sonora Smart Dodd Starts Movement to Honor Fathers

The idea for Father’s Day is credited to Sonora Smart Dodd who, after listening to a Mother’s Day sermon at church, believed that her father William Jackson Smart – a Civil War veteran and young widower who raised 6 children – should also be honored.

article about Sonora Smart Dodd promoting "Father's Day," Cincinnati Post newspaper article 25 May 1911

Cincinnati Post (Cincinnati, Ohio), 25 May 1911, page 5

She encouraged Spokane churches to set aside a Sunday sermon in honor of Father’s Day. They did that in June 1910 and preached about the importance of fathers. The movement grew from there and was discussed in newspapers across the country.

Movement Spreads for "Father's Day," Tucson Daily Citizen newspaper article 14 June 1910

Tucson Daily Citizen (Tucson, Arizona), 14 June 1910, page 1

As the idea for Father’s Day took off, others joined the effort to make a permanent national holiday honoring dads. The Father’s Day Council was established in 1931 by concerned citizens and leaders who wanted to help achieve the “universal observance” of a Father’s Day holiday. Later it was renamed the Father’s Day/Mother’s Day Council.

Father of the Year

In 1942 the Father’s Day Committee was established, whose “sole purpose was to confer Father of the Year honors on leaders of society.”

The Father’s Day Committee set about choosing “lifestyle leaders” each year for their honorees. Starting in 1942 a select few dads were honored with the title Father of the Year. So who are some of the winners of this honor?

Probably not surprisingly considering that World War II was happening, the first honoree was General Douglas MacArthur. One of the fathers awarded the next year, 1943, was another general: Dwight D. Eisenhower.

General Eisenhower Wins Designation as No. 1 Father, Sacramento Bee newspaper article 16 June 1943

Sacramento Bee (Sacramento, California), 16 June 1943, page 22

Eisenhower was bestowed the honor of number one father “because of the brilliant victory of the United Nations forces, because of their stirring example in fortitude, because of their value to the cause for which we are fighting – the protection of our homes and our liberty – and because of your sterling qualities of leadership and inspiration to the youth of today and all future generals.” At the time of this award Eisenhower and his wife Mamie had a son, John D. Eisenhower, who was a cadet at the U.S. Military Academy.

Enter Last Name

Through the years, all kinds of celebrities and famous men were given the honor of the nation’s #1 father. Presidents, movie stars, soldiers, ministers, athletes, musicians, and lawyers were honored. The title of Father of the Year was given to several men each year, all representing different walks of life. In 1960 Pat Boone was named Television Father of the Year, with additional awards going to Robert F. Kennedy, Charlton Heston, John Unitas (quarterback for the NFL’s Baltimore Colts) and Art Linkletter.

Pat Boone, 'TV's Father of the Year,' Daily Illinois State Journal newspaper article 11 June 1960

Daily Illinois State Journal (Springfield, Illinois), 11 June 1960, page 31

Every year the Father of the Year charity luncheon is held in the nominees’ honor. This year’s honorees include President George W. Bush, Morris Goldfarb and Ashok Sani. You can read more about this year’s ceremony and The Father’s Day/Mother’s Day Council on their website.

Step Away from That Tie!

While your dad may never be officially named Father of the Year, he’s probably number one in your life. Father’s Day is a great way to show him how much you care, but let’s face it – dads probably get the short end of the stick when it comes to gifts. Even before there was an official holiday, retailers were coming up with ideas about what to get dad for his special day. In this 1919 advertisement for the John Bressmer Company, gift-giving suggestions include a humidor and an Edison phonograph – but it wasn’t too long before ties were the suggested gift.

Sunday, June 1 Is Father's Day, Daily Illinois State Journal newspaper advertisement 29 May 1919

Daily Illinois State Journal (Springfield, Illinois), 29 May 1919, page 3

Probably the real problem with finding a special gift for dad is that moms are just easier to shop for. After all, moms are more associated with sentimental gifts. As this 1930 Mississippi newspaper article points out:

article about gifts for Father's Day, Daily Herald newspaper article 11 June 1930

Daily Herald (Biloxi, Mississippi), 11 June 1930, page 5

It would seem that gifting a tie has a long tradition.

That same newspaper article provided two poems for Father’s Day:

poem for Father's Day, Daily Herald newspaper article 11 June 1930

Daily Herald (Biloxi, Mississippi), 11 June 1930, page 5

poem for Father's Day, Daily Herald newspaper article 11 June 1930

Daily Herald (Biloxi, Mississippi), 11 June 1930, page 5

Spend some time making family memories with your dad. Honor those dads who have passed by writing and sharing their stories. Happy Father’s Day!

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National Archives Celebrates 75th Anniversary this Friday!

National Archives Celebrates 75th Anniversary on Friday, June 19th.

Susan Logue (Voice of America) distributed this commentary on the 75th Anniversary of the National Archives.

Before the National Archives was founded, many governmental records were kept in poor conditions. On June 19, 1934, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the legislation creating the National Archives. “There was a recognition by historians, by public officials and others that the history of the nation was being lost,” says assistant archivist Michael Kurtz. “Records were kept by the agencies that created them. Fires, floods and other disasters really ate away at the nation’s documented heritage.”

A visitor to the National Archives examines the Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the U.S.

Constitution Seventy-five years later, it is home to some of the most treasured documents in the United States. Every day, visitors fill the rotunda of the National Archives to get a glimpse of the documents that are the foundation of the United States government: the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.

But there is much more to the National Archives than just the so-called Charters of Freedom. More than 9 billion records preserved.

Since 1934 it has been responsible for all official governmental historical records: judicial, legislative and executive. Of course, not every government document is saved. Only one to three percent are deemed valuable enough to permanently archive. But, as Kurtz explains, that still adds up to more than nine billion records. While the paper records are vast, there are records in other formats as well including video, film, and digital.

“You have wikis and blogs, digital e-mail, all capturing government business,” says Kurtz. He notes they present new challenges to the Archives. “Preserving them is not like having temperature- and humidity-control vaults for paper records, which will ensure the paper records last for hundreds of years. Digital media is much more fragile.”

On the other hand, Kurtz says, the digital age has presented some opportunities for the National Archives, which can provide access to holdings to people who will never be able to come to the National Archives in person.

The National Archives is celebrating its 75th anniversary with lectures and panel discussions, screenings of films, and an exhibit called “Big!,” featuring some of its more unusual holdings. “The original premise was to showcase some unique items that normally don’t get displayed because of their size,” says exhibits specialist Jennifer Johnson.

Those items include a Civil War-era battlefield map of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, that measures four meters square and a bathtub modeled after the one made for President William Howard Taft, the largest U.S. president. He weighed about 145 kilos (320 pounds). “There were a series of items that were custom made for him, including his bed,” says Johnson. “We have a telegram where it is asking for a bathtub, listing the dimensions and describing it as ‘pond-like.'”
When the exhibition, Big!, closes next January, Shaq’s shoe will go to the George W. Bush presidential library. Presidential libraries are also part of the National Archives. There is also a shoe that belonged to basketball star Shaquille O’Neal, which was given to President George W. Bush, and a casting of dinosaur footprints.

Johnson says that was presented to Richard Nixon by two boys who discovered the fossilized prints in New Jersey. “When they discovered these footprints they petitioned Nixon to preserve that area of land so they could study it, and he did. So they gave him a casting of the footprints.” Today, she notes, one of those boys is one of the leading paleontologists in the U.S. There are also more conventional records in the exhibit, illustrating big events and big ideas in American history, like the lunar landing and D-Day, the Normandy invasion that led to the Allied victory in World War Two.

Exhibits like “Big!” give visitors a glimpse of the vast holdings of the National Archives, but the stars of the collection remain the Charters of Freedom.