Presidents Day … or Whatever It’s Called

Washington's Birthday Research Topic via eLibrary

Washington’s Birthday Research Topic screencap via ProQuest eLibrary

No matter what your calendar says, there is no federal holiday called “Presidents Day.” It is still officially “Washington’s Birthday.” While many states have adopted their own holidays to honor various combinations of presidents, the third Monday in February, technically, honors our first president.

George Washington’s birthday is February 22, which was celebrated even when he was still alive, and in 1879 the date was made an official holiday by an act of Congress. This continued until the 1968 Uniform Monday Holiday Act shifted the holiday to its place on the third Monday of the month, consequently ensuring it would never fall on the actual date of Washington’s birth. The term “Presidents Day” (or “Presidents’ Day,” depending on where you are and how you feel about apostrophes) was first coined in the 1950s during an effort to create a holiday to honor all presidents, and it was considered in a rejected version of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act that would have changed the holiday to honor Abraham Lincoln as well. Over the years, many states began declaring their own Presidents Days to honor Washington, Lincoln and their own native sons, and in the 1980s advertisers began promoting the term “Presidents Day,” adding to the confusion about the holiday. There continue to be efforts to return to focus to George Washington and to move the date back to February 22, with many complaining that the holiday, which most associated with a day off of work and discount sales, has lost its effect as a way to honor Washington and Lincoln and as a tool to foster historical literacy.

However you feel about the name of the holiday and whom it should honor, eLibrary has all of the bases covered. First, we stuck to the federal designation when we created our Washington’s Birthday Research Topic page, which can give you the basics on the holiday itself. Then, there are RT pages on George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and all of the presidents (if you don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings). Just type the name in the eLibrary search box. (You can watch for autocomplete drop-downs to aid you while typing.) We also have many RTs related to presidential elections, aspects of the presidency and even the often-forgotten vice presidents. Examples: U.S. Presidential Election, 1960, American Presidency, Vice Presidency, Charles Curtis.

Research Topics and other resources can be topics button smallfound by clicking the “Topics” button in the bar at the top of the page in eLibrary. Here, you can search for and click on underlined words to drill down into subject headings. You can always click on underlined words in the topic string at the top of the page to widen or narrow the scope. An item with a star next to it in the outline or in the topic string will display a Research Topic page directly related to it. Here are some headings to get you started on this topic: Presidents, Vice Presidents, First Ladies, Presidential Elections, Holidays.



Jim Zelli

Jim Zelli has been with ProQuest since 1989 and with eLibrary since 2004.

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