New Hampshire’s Fathers’ Day History

The celebration of Fathers’ Day in New Hampshire is over 100 years old, unofficially that is.  The anniversary date hinges really on which year you consider as the advent of Fathers’ Day in our state.  A newspaper article acknowledged the day as early as 1910.

Dodd Fathers Day

Newspaper Article from: Portsmouth Herald, August 5, 1910, page 4

Fathers will at last get some consideration. Mrs. J.B. Dodd, a Washington state society woman, is bending all her energies toward making the third Sunday of June a day on which the poor old dads will be honored throughout the country, if not the whole world. On the next day set aside for father in Spokane, Wash., everyone in that city will be seen wearing a rose in his buttonhole or on her breast. In all churches ministers will use that day as text for their sermons.” [Portsmouth Herald, August 5, 1910, page 4].

A year later, the idea was reinforced, in a humorous way, when the Portsmouth Herald of May 11, 1911 (page 4) printed the following:

May 14 will be observed as Mother’s day and June 16 as Father’s day. The dog will have his day later in the season.

Originally the day seemed to be focused more on acknowledgement especially in the local churches, where the sermon’s theme would be on fathers and parenting.  It was not until later, when the day was embraced by merchants as a means of selling their products, that it became promoted with advertising to buy gifts.

It was a happy thought that inspired Mother’s Day and designated the second Sunday in May for its celebration in the churches. Equally appropriate the establishment of Fathers’ Day and setting apart of the third Sunday in May for its celebration. Father’s

father's day ad

Father’s Day Advertising from newspaper, Portsmouth Herald, June 11, 1924, page 10

Day was first observed in 1913, and will be celebrated Sunday, May 19 at the Universalist Church. A special sermon will be preached. [Portsmouth Herald, May 14, 1918, page 8]

Sonora Louise Smart Dodd, of Spokane, Washington is credited with having founded the modern Father’s Day in 1909. After listening to a Mother’s Day sermon, she wondered why there was not a Father’s Day. Her own father, William Jackson Smart was a Civil War veteran whose wife died shortly after giving birth. He raised Sonora and five other children. Spokane Washington celebrated its first Father’s Day on June 19, 1910.

The idea gradually gained in popularity all over the United States. President Woodrow Wilson approved of the idea in 1916, sending a telegraph to Spokane praising the Fathers’ Day services. In 1966 President Lyndon B. Johnson signed a presidential proclamation declaring the third Sunday of June as Father’s Day. In 1971 President Richard M. Nixon established it as a permanent national observance.

Who was she? Sonora Louise Smart was born 18 February 1882 in Jenny Lind, Sebastian County, Arkansas to William Jackson & Ellen Victoria (Cheek) Smart). Sonora was 16 when her mother died giving birth to her brother, Marshall. She married John Bruce Dodd (1870-1945), and had a son Jack Dodd, born in 1909.

 ***Additional Reading on Genealogy Blogs***

New Hampshire: Celebrating Father’s Day (a story I wrote in 2011 about my own father)

The Family Plot of the “Father’s Day Family” (a story about the founder of Father’s Day and her family by Miriam Robbins on AnceStories: The Stories of My Ancestors”)

Remembering (Linda McCauley remembers her father in pictures, on her blog “Documenting the Details”)

Fathers’ Day (Bill West remembers his father, grandfathers and great-grand dads in pictures, on “West in New England”)

Father’s Day Tree 2013 (Heather Wilkinson Rojo celebrates her husband as a father on “Nutfield  Genealogy”)

A Tribute to my Father (Footnote Maven writes lovingly about her father at “FootnoteMaven”)

Love you Father-Dad! (Pat Richley-Erickson blogs about her Dad on “Dear Myrtle”)

a bittersweet day (Debi Levy Austen blogs about Fathers’ Day and her own Dad at “Who Knew?”)

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  1. Pingback: In Celebration of A Grandfather: Charles Aloysius Manning | Cow Hampshire

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