Father's Day is a celebration inaugurated in the early twentieth century to complement Mother's Day in celebrating fatherhood and male parenting, and to honor and commemorate fathers and forefathers. Father's Day is celebrated on a variety of dates worldwide and typically involves gift-giving, special dinners to fathers, and family-oriented activities.
The first observance of Father's Day is believed to have been held on July 5, 1908 in a church located in Fairmont, West Virginia, by Dr. Robert Webb of West Virginia at the Central United Methodist Church of Fairmont.
Mrs. Sonora Smart Dodd of Washington thought independently of the holiday one Sunday in 1909 while listening to a Mother's Day sermon at the Central Methodist Episcopal Church at Spokane, and she arranged a tribute for her father on June 19, 1910. She was the first to solicit the idea of having an official Father's Day observance to honor all fathers.
It took many years to make the holiday official. In spite of support from the YWCA, the YMCA and churches, it ran the risk of disappearing from the calendar. Where Mother's Day was met with enthusiasm, Father's Day was met with laughter. The holiday was gathering attention slowly, but for the wrong reasons. It was the target of much satire, parody and derision, including jokes from the local newspaper Spokesman-Review. Many people saw it as just the first step in filling the calendar with mindless promotions like "Grandparents' Day", "Professional Secretaries' Day", etc., all the way down to "National Clean Your Desk Day."
A bill was introduced in 1913, US President Calvin Coolidge supported the idea in 1924, and a national committee was formed in the 1930s by trade groups in order to legitimize the holiday.. It was made a federal holiday when President Lyndon Johnson issued a proclamation in 1966.
The Associated Men's Wear Retailers formed a National Father's Day Committee in New York City in the 1930s, which was renamed in 1938 to National Council for the Promotion of Father's Day and incorporated several other trade groups. This council had the goals of legitimizing the holiday in the mind of the people and managing the holiday as a commercial event in a more systematic way, in order to boost the sales during the holiday. This council always had the support of Dodd, who had no problem with the commercialization of the holiday and endorsed several promotions to increase the amount of gifts. In this aspect she can be considered the opposite of Anna Jarvis, who actively opposed all commercialization of Mother's Day.
The merchants recognized the tendency to parody and satirize the holiday, and used it to their benefit by mocking the holiday on the same advertisements where they promoted the gifts for fathers. People felt compelled to buy gifts even though they saw through the commercial facade, and the custom of giving gifts on that day became progressively more accepted. By 1937 the Father's Day Council calculated that only one father in six had received a present on that day. However, by the 1980s, the Council proclaimed that they had achieved their goal: the one-day event had become a three-week commercial event, a "secondChristmas". Its executive director explained back in 1949 that, without the coordinated efforts of the Council and of the groups supporting it, the holiday would have disappeared.
Although the name of the event is usually understood as a plural possessive (i.e. "day belonging to fathers"), which would under normal English punctuation guidelines be spelled "Fathers' Day", the most common spelling is "Father's Day", as if it were a singular possessive (i.e. "day belonging to Father"). Dodd used the "Fathers' Day" spelling on her original petition for the holiday, but the spelling "Father's Day" was already used in 1913 when a bill was introduced to the US Congress as the first attempt to establish the holiday, and it was still spelled the same way when its creator was commended in 2008 by the U.S. Congress.
In the United States Father's Day is celebrated on the third Sunday in June. The first modern Father's Day celebration was held on July 5, 1908, in Fairmont, West Virginia or on June 19 of the same year, in the state of Washington. Since then, Father's Day is celebrated on the 3rd Sunday of June.
In West Virginia, it was first celebrated as a church service at Williams Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church South, now known as Central United Methodist Church. Grace Golden Clayton, who is believed to have suggested the service to the pastor, is believed to have been inspired to celebrate fathers after the deadly mine explosion in nearby Monongah the prior December. This explosion killed 361 men, many of them fathers and recent immigrants to the United States from Italy. Another possible inspiration for the service was Mothers' Day, which had been celebrated for the first time two months prior in Grafton, West Virginia, a town about 15 miles (24 km) away.
Another driving force behind the establishment of the integration of Father's Day was Mrs. Sonora Smart Dodd, born in Creston, Washington. Her father, the Civil War veteran William Jackson Smart, was a single parent who reared his six children in Spokane, Washington. She was inspired by Anna Jarvis's efforts to establish Mother's Day. Although she initially suggested June 5, her father's birthday, she did not provide the organizers with enough time to make arrangements, and the celebration was deferred to the third Sunday of June. The first June Father's Day was celebrated on June 19, 1910, in Spokane, WA, at the Spokane YMCA.
Unofficial support from such figures as William Jennings Bryan was immediate and widespread. President Woodrow Wilson was personally feted by his family in 1916. President Calvin Coolidge recommended it as a national holiday in 1924. In 1966, President Lyndon Johnson made Father's Day a holiday to be celebrated on the third Sunday of June. The holiday was not officially recognized until 1972, during the presidency ofRichard Nixon.
In recent years, retailers have adapted to the holiday by promoting greeting cards and male-oriented gifts such as electronics and tools. Schools and other children's programs commonly have activities to make Father's Day gifts.
According to IBISWorld, a publisher of business research, Americans are expected to spend at least $11 billion on gifts for Father's Day in 2008. This is about $7 billion less than the amount spent on Moms for Mother's Day, which is more steeped in traditional gifts, some of which tend to be more expensive than Father's Day gifts. In economic terms, the average per capita spending on Father's Day is expected to be in the range of $27.60 in 2008. .