On Monday, Feb. 21, many Americans will celebrate the federal holiday known as Presidents’ Day. Kids will be off school (not us, unfortunately), the post office won’t deliver the mail, and images of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln will be used to shill for everything from cars to sweaters.
Except. Did you know that, officially, Presidents’ Day doesn’t exist? The third Monday in February was designated “Washington’s Birthday” by the Uniform Monday Holiday Act (Pub. L. 90-363) in 1968 and that remains its official title to this day. The misnomer “Presidents’ Day” comes from the holiday’s close proximity to both Washington’s (Feb. 22) and Lincoln’s (Feb. 12) birthdays. The bill’s proponent himself tried to rename the holiday Presidents’ Day, but that initiative died at the committee level, with one committee member saying, “Certainly, not all Presidents are held in the same high esteem as the Father of our Country. There are many who are not inclined to pay their respects to certain Presidents. Moreover, it is probable that the members of one political party would not relish honoring a President from the other political party whether he was in office, no matter how outstanding history may find his leadership.” And yet, we all call it Presidents’ Day. You can read more about this act with the National Archives.
You can also check out some of the law library’s books on the presidents. We’ve got books on Washington and other Founding Fathers, as well as multiple titles on individual presidents, like those on Lincoln and the Supreme Court or Lincoln as a lawyer.