National Archives News

Washington’s Birthday (Presidents Day)

Peesident's Day banner graphis

On the third Monday in February, we honor our first President, George Washington, whose birthday is February 22. We also traditionally honor President Abraham Lincoln, whose birthday is February 12. Records in the National Archives relate to all our Presidents, and the Presidential Libraries and Museums are a unique resource for the modern Presidents since Herbert Hoover. 

George Washington portrait

George Washington’s Birthday was the first federal holiday to honor an individual's birth date. In 1885, Congress designated February 22 as a holiday for all federal workers. Nearly a century later, in 1971, the Uniform Monday Holiday Law changed the date to the third Monday in February. The position of the holiday between the birthdays of Washington and Abraham Lincoln gave rise to the popular name of Presidents Day. Explore selected documents and images from the National Archives Catalog related to Washington’s Birthday.

Accordion

This Inside the Vaults video short highlights a letter written by President George Washington to his friend, Gov. Henry Lee of Virginia, on July 3, 1792. In the letter, Washington turns down the request of the artist William Williams, who wished to paint the President's portrait. Mount Vernon associate curator Laura Simo explains that Washington was weary of frequently posing for portraits during his Presidency.

This Inside the Vaults video short tells the story of formerly missing letters between President Abraham Lincoln and Union surgeons that appeared in the auction catalog of a rare documents dealer and were returned to the National Archives in 2011. The letters are dated shortly after the Battle of Antietam occurred: Union surgeons wrote to President Lincoln requesting that he appoint a chaplain to serve the wounded, dying and dead in hospitals near Hagerstown, Maryland.

Using George Washington's extensive but often overlooked financial papers, Edward G. Lengel chronicles how this self-educated man built the Mount Vernon estate into a vast, multilayered enterprise; prudently managed meager resources to win the Revolutionary War; and as President, helped establish the national economy on a solid footing.

Lincoln's Greatest Speech: The Second Inaugural.

The film features actor Richard Dreyfuss giving a dramatic reading of the speech, followed by historical analysis. Filmmaker Ken Kebow and author Ronald C. White, Jr.

More videos from the National Archives


FDR and the Tully Archive 

John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address 

Eisenhower’s "Military-Industrial Complex" Speech Origins and Significance

 

Videos from the Presidential Libraries


Favorite Things: What's at Your Presidential Libraries? 

Herbert Hoover Library

Franklin D. Roosevelt Library

Harry S. Truman Library

Dwight D. Eisenhower Library

John F. Kennedy Library

Lyndon B. Johnson Library

Richard Nixon Library

Ronald Reagan Library

George Bush Library

William J. Clinton Library

Author lectures


An Evening with the Mount Rushmore Presidents

Lincoln’s White House: The People’s House in Wartime

Wrestling with His Angel: The Political Life of Abraham Lincoln, 1849–1856

We Called Him Rabbi Abraham: Lincoln and American Jewry, a Documentary History

Most Blessed of the Patriarchs: Thomas Jefferson and the Empire of the Imagination

First Dads: Parenting and Politics from George Washington to Barack Obama

Learn about the Presidential Libraries, which document the lives and administrations of Presidents Herbert Hoover through Barack Obama.

George Washington’s First Inaugural Address, April 30, 1789

Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1865

 

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