Presidents’ Day always occurs on the third Monday of February. That was Feb. 15 this year, the day before yesterday and the day after Valentine’s Day.
Valentine’s Day is always punctuated with an apostrophe after the final E. However, Presidents’ Day has always presented a grammatical conundrum since 1968, when Congress decided it would be better if we had more three-day weekends and moved George Washington’s birthday from Feb. 22 (on our current calendar, the Gregorian, but Feb. 15 on the previous calendar, the Julian) to the aforementioned date. So is it President’s, Presidents’ or Presidents Day? All three variations are used, especially in business advertising.
Another dilemma is who are we honoring? Depending on how the day is punctuated, it could be Herbert Hoover or Millard Fillmore or Harry Truman. Or it could be all 46 presidents — or 45 if you are among those who still live in an alternate universe, as Trump still does, where The Donald actually won the last election, and by a landslide. The reality is the official designation of this federal holiday is, and always has been, Washington’s Birthday — which solves the punctuation problem.
Here is more presidential trivia. Besides being the only president unanimously elected and the only president who did not belong to a political party, George Washington was a successful liquor distributor. He made rye whiskey, apple brandy and peach brandy in his Mount Vernon distillery. Dwight Eisenhower installed a putting green on the White House lawn and played over 800 games of golf around the country while in office.
Grover Cleveland personally answered the White House telephone. Calvin Coolidge never used the White House telephone. Herbert Hoover approved “The Star-Spangled Banner” as the national anthem. (Wonder if any tune was played at sporting events before then and if people objected if it was not?) Zachary Taylor received his nomination for presidency late because he refused all postage-due letters. Gerald Ford was a model during his 20s. Jimmy Carter filed a UFO sighting in 1973. George W. Bush was the head cheerleader at his high school.
Here are a few presidential firsts. Martin Van Buren was the first president born in the United States of America. Franklin Pierce was the first president to have a Christmas tree in the White House. John Quincy Adams was the first president to be photographed. Franklin D. Roosevelt was the first president whose mother was eligible to vote for him. Millard Fillmore installed the first bathtub and kitchen stove in the White House. Andrew Jackson was the first president to ride a railroad train. Jimmy Carter was the first president born in a hospital. William Taft was the first president to own a car.
Theodore Roosevelt was the first president to travel outside the U.S. when he went to Panama, and to win a Nobel Peace Prize. Benjamin Harrison was the first president to use electricity in the White House. William McKinley was the first president to campaign by telephone. Thomas Jefferson was the first president to shake hands with guests. Previously, people had bowed to presidents. Ulysses S. Grant was the first president to run against a woman candidate, Victoria Woodhull, the nominee of the Equal Rights Party, in 1872, and the first to see the Pacific Ocean. Harry Truman was the first president to give a televised speech. Rutherford B. Hayes was the first president to use a telephone. His number was 1.
In memory of Ralph Johnson, my college roommate who was a collegiate champion in the sport, Abraham Lincoln as a young man was defeated only once out of approximately 300 wrestling matches.
Now you know more about Presidents’ Day (my preferred punctuation) and presidents. I hope you enjoyed the day, especially if it was a holiday for you.
Wear a face mask, wash your hands and maintain social distance.