Father's Day 2018: Origin and Facts

Father's Day
Arturo Marquez of Rialto spends time with his son, Arturo, Jr., age 3, under a homemade 'Happy Father's Day' sign tied between two trees on the beach at Silverwood Lake in San Bernardino County, California. (Image credit: Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times/Getty)

This year, Father's Day falls on Sunday, June 17, so get ready to treat your dad with some terrific treats and family time. But Father's Day wasn't always on the third Sunday of June, so how did it get its start?

The idea of Father’s Day was conceived by Sonora Dodd of Spokane, Washington, while she listened to a Mother’s Day sermon in 1909, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Dodd wanted a special day to honor her father, William Smart, a widowed Civil War veteran who was left to raise his six children on a farm after his wife died during childbirth.

Dodd encouraged local churches to celebrate the day, and she was so successful that Spokane’s mayor proclaimed the first Father's Day on June 19, 1910, according to the Library of Congress. Dodd chose June because it was her father's birth month. [Doting Dads: 6 of History's Finest Fathers]

However, it took a while for the rest of the nation to follow suit. President Woodrow Wilson, who signed a proclamation for Mother's Day in 1916, said he approved of Father's Day, but he never signed a proclamation for it.

President Calvin Coolidge took it a step further in 1924, when he made a national event to "establish more intimate relations between fathers and their children and to impress upon fathers the full measure of their obligations," according to the Library of Congress. But Father's Day didn't become official until 1966, when President Lyndon Johnson issued the first presidential proclamation designated to honor fathers on the third Sunday of June.

Father’s Day has been celebrated annually since 1972, when President Richard Nixon signed the public law that made it permanent.

Some discoveries to ponder on Father's Day:

And some Father's Day numbers (based on a 2014 survey):

72.2 million: Estimated number of fathers in the United States today.

29.2 million: Fathers who are also grandfathers in the United States.

Roughly 6 in 10 men in the United States are fathers.

54 percent of fathers have only adult children who are at least 18 years old.

46 percent of men have at least one minor child who is younger than 18 years old.

Of the 35 million fathers of minor children, about 1.7 million (about 2 percent) are single fathers.

(Image credit: U.S. Census)

Editor's note: This article was originally published on June 17, 2006. It was updated to include new data about fathers in the United States.

Original article on Live Science.

Laura Geggel

Laura is the archaeology and Life's Little Mysteries editor at Live Science. She also reports on general science, including paleontology. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Scholastic, Popular Science and Spectrum, a site on autism research. She has won multiple awards from the Society of Professional Journalists and the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association for her reporting at a weekly newspaper near Seattle. Laura holds a bachelor's degree in English literature and psychology from Washington University in St. Louis and a master's degree in science writing from NYU.