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The History of Father's Day

From our Weekly Cartoons:


The inspiration for Father's Day was Mother's Day. So if you are asked, which came first, Mothers Day or Fathers's Mothers Day!  Women came before men on this one. 


Sonora Smart Dodd (Spokane, Washington) was listening to a Mother's Day sermon in her church and thought silently to herself that fathers needed the same sort of recognition also.

Sonora's own mother died in 1898. She was one of six children.  Her father raised his children alone after his wife's death.  She felt that her father definitely deserved some recognition.  She began working through Protestant churches and local groups in the Spokane area to promote this holiday.  She decided that the 3rd Sunday in June would be the day, and instead of a carnation (like Anna Jarvis proclaimed for Mother's Day) Sonora said everyone should wear a rose for Father's Day.  She circulated a petition at first among ministers and church organizations.  So, the very first Father's Day observance took place in churches and were similar to the Mother's Day celebration.

The church's also used Father's Day as a way to promote the masculine side of Christianity and to remind men (who might become fathers) and all fathers of their obligation to look after their families' spiritual welfare also.

Sonora Dodd then formed a committee  to promote the new church celebration by getting political endorsements, answering questions from around the country and putting on local celebrations.  Although she did a lot of work, the idea of a Father's Day did not catch on as quickly as a Mother's Day did.

By 1920, Father's Day had pretty well evaporated from the American social calendar and Mrs. Dodd had moved on to other interests.  But after studying at the Art Institute of Chicago and working as a fashion designer in Hollywood, she came home to Spokane 10 years later in the 1930's.  At that time, she resumed her campaign for a Father's Day.  By this time, the holiday (celebrated only in churches) was 25 years old.  Suddenly, there was a renewed interest and Father's Day got a little boost (at least in Eastern Washington State).  But, the rest of the United States wasn't so enthused and took it as just another excuse for a holiday, especially when it came to the commercial issues. After all, what did men want with sentimental things like flowers, gifts and greeting cards?

But guess who came charging to the rescue? The Associated Men's Wear Retailers of New York City took on the challenge of getting a Father's Day in this country (not out of the goodness of their hearts, more well their pocketbooks.  They knew the commercial potential!)

In 1938, they set up The National Council for the Promotion of Father's Day.  The council worked with florists, tobacconists, stationers and men's clothiers across the United States to promote Father's Day. Their slogan? "Give Dad Something To Wear!"

President Calvin Coolidge had originally recommended that Father's Day become an official observance in 1924.  But it took years... I mean...YEARS until 1972 when President Richard Nixon signed a proclamation proclaiming the third Sunday in June as Father's Day.  

Unfortunately, Sonora Smart Dodd died in 1978 at the age of 96, and only lived to see her holiday celebrated for a few years.  Today, the Father's Day Council estimates that this observance brings in approximately $1 billion a year in retail sales.


Father's Day Symbols

The Tie! 

Ironically, Christmas wasn't  the holiday that tradition had you giving dad a tie.  No, what Mother's Day did for the florist industry, Father's Day did for men's wear and ties.  Along with tobacco items, shirts or anything that was masculine that dad would like (fishing, hunting, you name it!) the commercial retailers just jumped on the bandwagon to turn this holiday into a monetary success.  

Knowing that many considered Father's Day gifts as a joke ( Real men don't want gifts they said!), a new type of gift-giving industry emerged:  Gag Gifts.

Suddenly ads were appearing surrounding fathers with cheesy, tacky, silly, ridiculous gifts and then suggested getting Dad the traditional classic tie or socks.  Although these commercial ploys were obvious, well, hey... soon Dads were well expecting "something" for Father's Day or they felt unappreciated or unloved.

As early as 1920, the custom of giving ties to fathers as a symbolic gesture of love was a joke.  A man was often teased for his "ugly tie" that his wife got him, as it was common for her to have no sense of taste.  And poor dad was left wearing an ugly tie in order not to hurt his wife's feelings.

But the idea of giving man flowers was even more ridiculous back then.  At least ties, socks, pipes, etc. were more masculine.  Although today, dads everywhere get all sorts of gifts from plants for their office, a dozen brownies to indulge in, tickets to their favorite game or even sexy underwear, it still remains today that "the tie" is the traditional and classic Father's Day gift.


The Rose

Sonora Smart Dodd suggested the rose in her petition as I mentioned above.  She felt that a white rose should be worn for a father who died, and a red rose for a father who was still living.  Even though it took over 60 years for Father's Day to become an official holiday, the idea of the rose as it's symbol to wear on this day was never challenged.  It was, however joked that the real flower for Father's Day should be the dandelion. Why? Because like a father, "the more it is trampled on, the more it grows."

Rather than add the wave file to this page and make it horribly long to load,
I put the song "My Dad" on a separate sing-along page.

A wave file is 10 times larger than a midi.
Page loading will be slower.

In 1962, Paul Peterson sang on 
"The Donna Reed" show the song 
It became an instant hit. And has continued to be a song dedicated to fatherhood. 

The song is written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, one of their many hits.


Also, don't forget to check out Brownielock's Zazzle store
 for some unique Father's Day gifts!

Information Source:
"Holiday Symbols, 2nd Edition"
by Sue Ellen Thompson
Omnigraphics, Inc. © 2000

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