Washington’s Birthday (Presidents Day)
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’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.
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
Videos from the Presidential Libraries
By George, IT IS Washington’s Birthday! (Winter 2004)
The Surprising George Washington (Spring 1994)
Text Message: President’s/Presidents’/Presidents Day?
Unwritten Record: Images of the Week: Presidential Portraits
Hoover Heads (blog of the Herbert Hoover Library)
Forward with Roosevelt (blog of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library)
JFK Library Archives (blog of the John F. Kennedy Library)
Learn about the Presidential Libraries, which document the lives and administrations of Presidents Herbert Hoover through Barack Obama.