The first modern Father's Day was rooted in tragedy. On July 5, 1908—the same year that Mother's Day is credited as beginning—a small church in West Virginia held the first public event meant to specifically honor the fathers of their community. The day was held in remembrance of the 362 men who were killed the previous December in a mining explosion at theFairmont Coal Company. Though this specific day did not transform into an annual tradition in the town, it did set a precedent of reserving a day for dads everywhere.
Washington was the first state to celebrate Father's Day. In 1909, Spokane resident Sonora Smart Dodd was listening to a Mother’s Day sermon at her local church when she had the idea to try and establish a similar day to honor the hard-working fathers of the community. Dodd was the daughter of a widower and Civil War veteran named William Jackson Smart, who raised six children on his own after his wife died during childbirth. She contacted local church groups, government officials, YMCAs, businesses, and other official entities, hoping to gather the community to recognize fathers around the state of Washington. The campaign Dodd embarked upon would eventually culminate in the first statewide Father's Day celebration in 1910.
It took until 1966 for President Lyndon Johnson to make a nationwide proclamation endorsing Father’s Day across the country. In his proclamation, Johnson wrote that on June 19, 1966, “I invite State and local governments to cooperate in the observance of that day; and I urge all our people to give public and private expression to the love and gratitude which they bear for their fathers.” Nowhere in Johnson's proclamation did it say anything about what would happen on Father's Day the next year, though, and the corresponding Joint Resolution specified “the third Sunday in June of 1966.” It wasn't until President Richard Nixon signed Public Law 92-278 that Father's Day was permanently recognized by the federal government.
Americans are expected to spend more than $20 billion on Father’s Day gifts. All those barbecue accessories, coffee mugs, and screwdriver sets add up: Americans are expected to spend about $20 billion on gifts in 2022 for Father’s Day, with clothing and “special outing” gear making up the bulk of the gifts.
Though Father's Day is big business in the commercial marketplace, it still exists in the shadow of mom. In 2022, the National Retail Federation (NRF) found that Americans spent $31.7 billion on Mother's Day gifts like flowers, apparel, dinner, and spa days—a $3.6 billion increase from 2021's spending.
Father's Day means big business for the greeting card industry. The holiday is the fourth most popular day for exchanging cards, with approximately 72 million flying off shelves annually. Hallmark—which has been producing Father's Day cards since the early 1920s—boasts more than 800 different designs for dad, with humor cards accounting for 25 percent of the cards sold. The NFR estimates that cards account for 58 percent of all Father’s Day gifts—whether the person honors dad only with a card or includes it with a larger gift.
Famously Mark Twain said the following about his father: "When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years."