More than just a long weekend, the third Monday of February is the official celebration of President George Washington’s birthday in the United States. While it began in 1885 as a day to recognize Washington’s birthday, this February holiday has been transformed in the late 20th century to a celebration of all U.S. presidents from the past and the present.
To celebrate President’s Day 2016, we want to share ten facts about a variety of U.S. presidents and about the holiday itself:
- Four presidents were born in February: George Washington, William Henry Harrison, Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan.
- While the holiday to celebrate Washington’s birthday was unofficially observed for most of the 1800s, President Hayes signed it into law in 1879. That first law applied only to the District of Columbia.
- In 1885 when President’s Day became a national holiday, there were only four other federal bank holidays (recognized nationwide): Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, Independence Day and Thanksgiving.
- Washington’s birthday is actually February 22. This would be his 284th birthday.
- Two future U.S. presidents signed the Declaration of Independence (and Washington wasn’t one of them): Thomas Jefferson and John Adams.
- President Grover Cleveland personally answered the White House phone; he was also the only president to serve two non-consecutive terms.
- The shift from celebrating the holiday on Washington’s actual birthday (February 22) to the third Monday in February took effect in 1971.
- Mount Rushmore in South Dakota’s Black Hills was completed in 1941 to honor four presidents: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt.
- John F. Kennedy was the first president to have served in the U.S. Navy.
- Ronald Reagan was the oldest elected president (he was 69 when he was inaugurated on January 20, 1981).
No matter which of the forty-four presidents you consider to be the greatest, it is undeniable that their varied lives and experiences have helped to profoundly shape the United States of America. And that is something to celebrate!