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by Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance

The history of Father’s Day: Why we celebrate dad

Father and daughter on a couch smiling at each other looking at a picture the daughter drew for the father

Does dad need another tie? Maybe a book? How about some golf balls? Maybe just a dinner out? Millions of Americans are asking themselves these questions leading up to June 16, 2024, Father’s Day. Many of us like celebrating our dads, but have you ever wondered how Father’s Day became a national holiday? 


The beginning of Father’s Day 


Though it became a national holiday in 1972, the roots of Father’s Day go much deeper. A West Virginia church held a Sunday sermon in memory of 362 men who had been killed in a coal mine explosion in 1908. Though not officially a celebration of fathers, it did especially honor those victims who had been fathers and is considered the first Father’s Day


Soon after that, Sonora Smart Dodd wanted to show her appreciation to her father, a widowed Civil War veteran who raised six children on his own. She campaigned local churches, shops and government officials for support and on June 19, 1910, the state of Washington celebrated the first Father’s Day. 


Though the day continued to receive some support, it was not celebrated widely. President Woodrow Wilson celebrated it in 1916, and President Calvin Coolidge urged the states to observe Father’s Day in 1924. In 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson issued a proclamation establishing the third Sunday in June to honor fathers, but it wasn’t until 1972 that President Richard Nixon signed a law making it a national holiday. Nixon issued a proclamation stating, “To have a father—to be a father—is to come very near the heart of life itself.”  


Not everyone was a fan of Father’s Day 


In the 1920s and 1930s, a movement arose to do away with both Mother’s Day and Father’s Day to celebrate one Parent’s Day. Popularized by a famous radio performer of the time, Robert Spere, he spouted that we should love our moms and dads every day.  


Congress was also reluctant to adopt Father’s Day. History House reports that despite gaining observance since 1910 support from politicians such as William Jennings Bryant, President Wilson, President Coolidge and Indiana’s own Representative Andrew Jacobs, Jr., it took Congress 62 years to adopt Father’s Day as a national holiday. 


What to gift dad on Father’s Day 


Traditional gifts include sporting equipment, tools and clothing. Lucky for you, there is no shortage of places to purchase those items. The U.S. Census Bureau published Father’s Day Fun Facts resources for teachers thanks to its Statistics in Schools program. Did you know there were 20,000 sporting goods stores, 15,000 hardware stores (an additional 5,969 home centers) and 6.000 men’s clothing stores in 2021? These and other Father’s Day facts can be found on the U.S. Census Bureau website


The National Retail Federation (NRF) also shares interesting data about Father’s Day, including how much consumers spend on the holiday.  


Dad’s legacy 


From the humble beginnings of Sonora Smart Dodd wanting to honor her father, William Smart, for his devotion to his country and family in 1910 to Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance’s Brad Loheide, director of marketing strategy initiatives, setting up a “wedding planner policy” for his daughters, fathers leave a lasting legacy on their families. Loheide discusses his role as a father and the benefits of life insurance as a dad in and Inside Story blog post and says, “We all love our families and want the best for them, so putting a plan in place is just another way of showing that we love them very much.”  Visit Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance to learn more about life insurance for your family or get a free quote today. 



Though it took 62 years for her dream to come to fruition, Smart Dodd lived to see Nixon sign Public Law 92-278 officially designating the third Sunday in June as Father’s Day. She was honored for her efforts at the World’s Fair held in Spokane, Washington in 1974. Today, Father’s Day is celebrated in some capacity in more than 100 nations.