Holidays and Observances

The History of Presidents’ Day

Mount Rushmore

Taking a day off work or enjoying a school holiday, hitting the fresh powder on the ski slopes, or shopping a big sale at your favorite store — these are just some of the ways many of us celebrate Presidents’ Day. But when did this holiday originate and what are we celebrating?

Presidents’ Day is celebrated each year on the third Monday of February. It is a federal holiday that celebrates the birthdays and achievements of all U.S. presidents, especially George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. Here are some fun facts about Presidents’ Day and some of the presidents who are honored on this day:

  • The holiday was originally established in recognition of President George Washington, who was born February 22, 1732. It was declared a federal holiday in 1879 and became a national holiday in 1968. On a federal level, this holiday is still designated as “Washington’s Birthday.” State and local governments and private businesses may use other names, such as Presidents’ Day.
  • Some states still celebrate Washington and Lincoln’s birthdays separately, while others also honor other presidents, such as Thomas Jefferson, on Presidents’ Day.
  • William Henry Harrison was the first to die in office – after only one month’s service.
  • Abraham Lincoln is believed to have had Marfan syndrome, a genetic disorder that affects connective tissue and could explain his tall stature of 6’4″.
  • John Quincy Adams started keeping a journal in 1779. By the time he passed away in 1848, he had written 50 volumes. His journals have been cited by many historians as first-hand accounts of the formation of the early United States.
  • James Madison was the shortest president, standing at 5’4″ and weighing just over 100 pounds.
  • Harry S. Truman never earned a college degree. He was a talented student and received good grades in most of his classes, but due to his family’s finances he was not able to pursue higher education. He was the last president of the United States to not have a college degree.
  • John F. Kennedy was the youngest man elected as president of the United States. When he was assassinated, he was the youngest president to die in office.
  • Benjamin Harrison was afraid of touching light switches because he was worried about getting electrocuted.
  • John Tyler fathered 15 children, more than any other president. He also has two living grandchildren as of 2024.

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