Presidents Day

What is the history of Presidents Day and where does the apostrophe go? From Mount Vernon:

The road to what the majority of the public in the United States now recognizes as Presidents’ Day is a long and confusing one. After Washington died in 1799, his birthday was informally celebrated across the country. It wasn’t until January 31, 1879, that Washington’s birthday became a federally recognized holiday. Starting in 1896, it has become a tradition to read Washington’s Farewell Address on February 22 (the actual day of his birth) in the US Senate by a current member.

From the Senate website:

No Senate tradition has been more steadfastly maintained than the annual reading of President George Washington’s 1796 Farewell Address. In this letter to “Friends and Citizens,” Washington warned that the forces of geographical sectionalism, political factionalism, and interference by foreign powers in the nation’s domestic affairs threatened the stability of the Republic. He urged Americans to subordinate sectional jealousies to common national interests.

[Emphasis mine.] Last year the address was read by the Democrat from Wisconsin, Tammy Baldwin. But on February 22, 1952 it was Rhode Island Senator John O. Pastore.

Who will it be this year? And who will be listening? Watch this site.


The Monday holiday of Presidents Day was established in 1971.

Seen here is “Columbia’s Noblest Sons” from the McLellan Lincoln Collection at the Hay Library.

Re apostrophe: The Associated Press Handbook says no apostrophe.

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