President’s Day is celebrated on the third Monday in February. Originally established in 1885 in recognition of President George Washington, it is still officially called “Washington’s Birthday” by the federal government. Traditionally celebrated on Washington’s actual birthday, February 22nd, the holiday became known as President’s Day after it was moved as part of 1971’s Uniform Monday Holiday Act, creating more three day weekends for workers. While several states still have individual holidays honoring the birthdays of Washington, Lincoln and others, President’s Day is now viewed as a day to celebrate all U.S. Presidents.
February 22nd became a perennial day of remembrance following Washington’s death in 1799. The centennial of his birth in 1832 and the start of construction of the Washington monument in 1848 were cause for national celebration.
It was not until the late 1870’s that it became a federal holiday. Senator Steven Wallace Dorsey of Arkansas was the first to propose the measure and it was signed into law by President Rutherford B. Hayes in 1879. Initially the holiday was only for the District of Columbia, but in 1885 was expanded to the whole country, joining four other nationally recognized holidays: Christmas, New Year’s Day, Independence Day and Thanksgiving. It was the first holiday celebrating the life of an individual American.