Presidents’ Day

unidentified_photographer_2012_95_14Unidentified Photographer, [John F. Kennedy taking presidential oath of office under Earl Warren, Washington, DC], January 20, 1961 (2012.95.14)

As the month of February marches on and continues to pile on the snow, many of us look forward to Presidents’ Day as a small mid-month break from our daily routines without thinking much about the day itself. Enacted by Congress in 1879 as a federal holiday to celebrate the birthday of George Washington, it was originally held on Washington’s birthday on February 22. It wasn’t until 1971 that the date was moved to the third Monday of February.

unidentified_photographer_2012_94_31Unidentified Photographer, [John F. Kennedy delivering State of the Union address to joint session of Congress, Washington, DC], January 14, 1963 (2012.94.31)

Given the fact that the new date of the holiday was now earlier in the month, many assume that the move was intended to bring it closer to Abraham Lincoln’s birthday on February 12 and make it a more inclusive holiday to honor the office of the President. The name of the holiday, however, was never officially changed by Congress. Each state has its own official name for the holiday, with some states choosing to keep the day George Washington’s birthday (or some variation thereof) and others calling it Presidents’ Day. Whatever the name, the third Monday of each February is a day to celebrate the birthday of George Washington, the office of the President, and maybe the day off of work as well.

mcavoy_thomas_d_1211_2005Thomas D. McAvoy, [Franklin D. Roosevelt drinking wine and smoking a cigarette during the Jackson Day Dinner], 1938 (1211.2005)

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