FACT CHECK: Is It ‘President’s Day’ Or ‘Washington’s Birthday’?

Kush Desai | Fact Check Reporter

Many Twitter users claimed that President’s Day is officially known as “Washington’s Birthday.”

“Officially the federal holiday coming this Monday is still Washington’s Birthday, not a generic Presidents’ Day for celebration of Millard Fillmore and Warren Harding,” presidential historian and author Michael Beschloss said.

“We need to get back to calling this holiday Washington’s Birthday,” said Bobby Chesney, associate dean of the University of Texas School of Law.

“Today is NOT ‘Presidents’ Day,’ a #FakeNews name contrived by advertisers,” KDKA political analyst Jon Delano said. “By Act of Congress, the official Federal holiday is ‘Washington’s Birthday.'”

Verdict: True

Washington’s Birthday became better known as President’s Day after Congress moved the federal holiday to the third Monday in February, falling between the birthdays of Presidents George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.

Fact Check:

Congress designated Washington’s birth date of Feb. 22 as a federal holiday in 1879. The nation’s first president thus became its first citizen honored by a federal holiday.

Almost a century later in the late-1960s, Illinois Rep. Robert McClory spearheaded an effort to shift many federal holidays including Washington’s Birthday to always fall on Mondays. The move would give workers more three-day weekends while sparing businesses from midweek disruptions in productivity.

McClory sought to rename Washington’s Birthday as “President’s Day” and include a celebration of Lincoln, a fellow Illinoisan. McClory ended up dropping this proposal, however, after it drew ire from congressmen representing Washington’s home state of Virginia.

Congress later passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act in 1968. The act officially designated Columbus Day as a federally recognized holiday and shifted Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day and Veterans Day to always fall on Mondays.

(Congress switched Veterans Day back from the fourth Monday of October to its original Nov. 11 date in 1975.)

As a result of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, Washington’s Birthday now falls on the third Monday of February, between Washington’s actual birthday on Feb. 22 and Lincoln’s birthday on Feb. 12 – giving the appearance that a federal holiday is in place, as McClory had sought, to honor both presidents.

Many states have changed the holiday’s name to “President’s Day” in recent decades, and countless retail campaigns have popularized President’s Day by featuring presidents like Teddy Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower in addition to Washington.

The holiday is still officially called Washington’s Birthday according to federal law.

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Kush Desai

Fact Check Reporter