Presidents Day or Presidents’ Day?

It seems that ever since Congress decided in 1968 to move George Washington’s birthday celebration (from Feb. 22 which is after all the date of the First President’s birthday) there has been controversy about what the holiday means and what to call it. The original legislative intent was to move the celebration of the Founding Father to the third Monday in February as part of the federal attempt to standardize federal holidays on Mondays. Before this legislation many states celebrated the birthdays of both Washington and Lincoln (Feb. 12). Not everyone was happy with moving Washington’s Birthday and the lack of recognition for Lincoln. Some states continue to celebrate both Lincoln’s birthday on Feb. 12 and George Washington’s birthday on the federal date. Congress seemed to rethink its decision and in 1999 a bill was introduced to rename the holiday Presidents’ Day to honor Washington, Lincoln and FDR especially, and to recognize the importance of the office of the presidency. This legislation did not pass. But the power of advertising and marketing seems to have made it official that it is Presidents’ Day and forget that it really is a day to celebrate Washington.

And so now it is commonly celebrated as a day honoring all presidents. Even though I tend to be more traditional I will follow the popular trend here.

There are many sources of information about the men who have lived in the White House. In case you simply need a refresher of the names and brief biographies check the White House site which lists them in order and provides links to their careers. The White House site also gives biographical information about the First Ladies . The Miller Center of Public Affairs at UVA is a comprehensive site that, in addition to biographical material, includes speeches (even audio for recent presidents) and information about the availability of presidential papers. C-span’s American Presidents series provides biographical information and maps to their gravesites.

Of course, the Syosset Library has many biographies on the presidents from Washington through Obama. Check the biography section on the first floor. And there are some other books that might grab your interest. One of my favorites is Kane’s Facts About the Presidents . It is filled with fascinating details about their personal lives as well as electoral and political statistics.

If you want to consider the family life of the presidents check out Mothers of American  Presidents by Doris Faber or  Doug Wead’s Raising of a President which looks at some of the mothers and fathers whose sons were elected to the White House. The presidential offspring are studied in All the Presidents’ Children also by Doug Wead.

And after they leave office, what have they done? Leonard Bernardo considers some of the problems and the activities of past presidents in Citizen-in-Chief . Mark K. Updegrove’s Baptism by Fire provides a look at the men who took over the office at times of national stress.

Our video collection includes The Presidents , specific bios on John Adams and John F. Kennedy and Harry Truman, the famous Frost/Nixon interviews, and Women in the White House which profiles the mothers and wives of some of the presidents.

And finally, one of my personal favorites:  I love history and I love to travel. Carl Wheeless has compiled a comprehensive book on Landmarks of American Presidents . This guidebook is divided into two sections. The first details the life of each President, the second provides a geographic listing of places associated with them. If you cannot come to the library to consult this reference book, check the National Parks Service website. It has a similar but less comprehensive listing.   Now I will get out my map and plan my next trip….

– posted by Brenda, Reference Services

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