Don’t feel bad if you’re getting your dad yet another necktie for Father’s Day this year. In fact, buying a tie is a big part of the reason Americans celebrate the holiday in the first place.
When President Richard Nixon made Father’s Day into an official holiday via presidential proclamation in 1972, he didn’t do it in order to sell dad-friendly gifts. But the Father’s Day we know today wouldn’t have been possible without the men’s clothing industry.
It all started around the turn of the 20th century, when a variety of boosters started pushing for the idea of a national day to celebrate fathers. These early Father’s Day advocates included everyone from loving daughters to famed social reformers — and all of them owed much for the idea to another holiday, Mother’s Day.
In 1908, the first Mother’s Day was celebrated as the outgrowth of a decades-long attempt to get the holiday going by Anna Reeves Jarvis, a West Virginia woman who originally conceived of the holiday. A year later, Sonora Smart Dodd, a Spokane woman who had been raised by a single father, attended a church service in honor of the new holiday and began to petition for a version for fathers. She suggested that a holiday be founded around the time of her father’s June birthday. But her idea received little support at first.
And Dodd wasn’t alone. Famed settlement house founder and social reformer Jane Addams tried to get a Father’s Day holiday going in Chicago, too. So did Harry C. Meek, a Lions Club member who tried to persuade presidents to go along with it. But despite their efforts, it just wouldn’t gel.