February 21, 2011
By Elisabeth Grant
The President’s Day holiday was originally called the Washington’s Birthday when it was conceived in 1880, and in fact fell on George Washington’s birthday: February 22nd. In 1971, the date was changed to the third Monday in February, in accordance with the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. Advertisers in the 80’s can be thanked for the name change, from Washington’s Birthday to President’s Day, which they used to promote sales between Lincoln’s birthday on February 12th and Washington’s birthday on February 22nd. For a more detailed history on the origins and evolution of the Washington’s Birthday/President’s Day holiday see part one and part two of C.L. Arbelbide’s article “By George, IT IS Washington’s Birthday!” from the National Archives Prologue magazine.
Today we remember the holiday by looking to resources and lesson plans online on George Washington and a number of other presidents. We also have a little fun. Scroll to the bottom of this post and see how many wax presidents you can identify.
- Before and Beyond the Constitution: What Should a President do?
Three lessons make up this unit from EDSITEment, and explore how the role of the president was formed, the Federalist Papers, and the precedents George Washington’s presidency set.
- What Presidential Portraits Reveal
This lesson plan, also from EDSITEment, aims to teach students in grades 9-12 to “recognize that portraits, whether paintings or photographs, can tell us more about people of the past than just what they looked like.”
- The Papers of George Washington
Read through George Washington’s diaries, letters, commissions, poetry, and more.
- George Washington: A Resource Guide
A collection of links, from the Library of Congress, to articles, online exhibitions, photographs, and more on George Washington.
- Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865), a collection of portraits of Abraham Lincoln on the Library of Congress Flickr page.
- The More Things Change: The History of Presidential Transitions
BackStory with the American History guys, a podcast, speaks with Michael Holt (historian and author of By One Vote), producer Catherine Moore, and Henry Haller (former White House Executive Chef), about James Polk, the first inaugural parade, and cooking for the presidents.
- The Presidents, from PBS’s American Experience tv history series, site online offers video biographies, podcasts, and more on presidents Roosevelt, Truman, Johnson, Nixon, Carter, Reagan, and Bush.
- George Washington: A National Treasure
An interactive site from the National Portrait Gallery that explores Gilbert Stuart’s portrait of George Washington.
- American President: An online reference resource, at the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia, offers a collection of presidential facts and essays (see Washington’s), seven essays on what the president does, a speech archive, and a multimedia gallery.
- First in Peace is history enthusiast Richard Lim’s site on George Washington. It looks at Washington’s life, career, and peers through text and images.
Last week Madame Tussauds set up wax figures of the 44 U.S. presidents in Washington, D.C.’s Union Station. Check out the image and let us know, can you name them all? For more information see Dcist’s article “Wax Presidents Take Over Union Station’s Grand Atrium.”