Thus far, the United States has had forty-four Presidents, which should make this holiday simple … right?
Okay, so how many U.S. Presidents does it take to make a federal holiday of the third Monday in each February, including this year’s on February 16, 2015?
Actually, only one, since the holiday is still considered by the federal government to be “Washington’s Birthday” (which actually should be celebrated every February 22nd, if truth be told, unless you get into a discussion of the Georgian and Julian calendar dates for his birth…). After all, he was the first U.S. President, and pretty much defined the office, even to the extent of standing his ground for it to remain a Presidency and not become a kingship.
Popular opinion, however, traditionally and often quite diversely expressed by the individual state governments, has variously designated the holiday as everything from ‘Presidents’ Day” in Alaska, Idaho, Maryland, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Wyoming, to “President’s Day” in Hawaii, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico, South Dakota, Texas, Vermont, and Washington, to “George Washington’s Birthday and Daisy Gatson Bates Day” in Arkansas.
President Abraham Lincoln’s birthday was also in February, making him a fairly logical addition to the original lineup. According to History.com “the Uniform Monday Holiday Act also included a provision to combine the celebration of Washington’s Birthday with Abraham Lincoln’s, which fell on the proximate date of February 12.” For more confusion, consult the Wikipedia article for a dizzy trip down the “Presidents Day’ rabbit hole.
Another great place to find more information about all of our U.S. Presidents is the Erwin Library, in particular the book exhibit currently in the Reference Exhibit Area. Check out a biography or history book and learn as much as you can, then come back for more!