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How Retailers Kept Father’s Day Alive
Father’s Day? No thanks, said dads for nearly half a century.
Only a couple years after the first Mother’s Day event took place in Philadelphia, a conversation started around a dedicated day celebrating dads.
Yet while Mother’s Day became a national holiday in 1914, it wasn’t until 58 years later that Father’s Day became official.
The problem was many fathers saw the holiday as a commercial stunt.
And the retailers behind it just couldn’t get along.
Sonora Smart Dodd lost her mother when she was a teenager and felt that her father, who had taken over both parent roles in the household, deserved a day of celebration, too.
After petitioning in her hometown of Spokane, Wash., the first observance of Father’s Day took place on June 19, 1910. Word spread around the country, but Father’s Day quickly faded out in the following years while Mother’s Day continued to grow in popularity.
That’s when retailers and manufacturers stepped in.
Necktie makers and tobacco sellers both pushed for a Father’s Day in 1925 as a way to boost mid-year sales – but picked different days. The split diluted the impact of both campaigns and jeopardized future Father’s Day celebrations.
It wasn’t until 1939 that retailers banded together to form the National Council for the Promotion of Father’s Day aimed at coordinating efforts and making the holiday as popular as Mother’s Day. The Council tapped into community leaders to balance the commercial impetus of the holiday.
The collaboration worked, though it took some time (and a couple of wars) to get families on board.
Father’s Day really took shape in the 60s during the Vietnam War and the women’s liberation movement. Retailers positioned the holiday as a way to recognize fathers as protectors of their nation and for their growing responsibilities at home, finally striking a chord with consumers.
Their success led President Richard Nixon to make Father’s Day a national holiday in 1972.
The council has since merged with Mother’s Day retailers and continues to drive Father’s Day media and awareness — with great success. Consumers are expected to shower dads with $20 billion in gifts a week from Sunday.