|Monday is not / not 'President's Day'
It's my pet peeve.
As we approach the Federal holiday that we will celebrate on Monday, the History News Network asks the timely question, Is It Presidents Day or President's Day or Presidents' Day?
Of course, it is none of those.
According to some of the calendars and appointment books floating around the Internet, Monday, February 18, is Presidents’ Day. Others say it’s President’ Day. Still others opt for Presidents Day. Which is it?
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Trick question. The answer, strictly speaking, is none of the above. Ever since 1968, when, in one of the last gasps of Great Society reformism, holidays were rejiggered to create more three-day weekends, federal law has decreed the third Monday in February to be Washington’s Birthday. And Presidents Day? According to Prologue, the magazine of the National Archives, it was a local department-store promotion that's responsible. Retailers discovered that a generic Presidents Day cleared more inventory than a holiday celebrating a particular one, even the Father of His Country. Now everybody thinks it’s official, but it’s not.
That Prologue article tells us how and why Washington's Birthday was established as a Federal holiday, and explains why most people think there is such as thing as Presidents Day:
Local advertisers morphed both "Abraham Lincoln's Birthday" and "George Washington's Birthday" into the sales sound bite "President's Day," expanding the traditional three-day sales to begin before Lincoln's birth date and end after Washington's February 22 birth. In some instances, advertisers promoted the sales campaign through the entire month of February. To the unsuspecting public, the term linking both presidential birthdays seemed to explain the repositioning of the holiday between two high-profile presidential birthdays.
So we see that Washington's Birthday, an observance begun for the purpose of fighting the erosion of historical memory, was twisted into an excuse to advertise department store sales during February.
And, it turns out the main culprit in this misinforming of the American public for commercial purposes was none other than the Washington Post:
By the mid-1980s, the term was appearing in a few Washington Post holiday advertisements and an occasional newspaper editorial. Three "spellings" of the advertising holiday ensued—one without an apostrophe and two promoting a floating apostrophe. The Associated Press stylebook placed the apostrophe between the "t" and "s" ("President's Day"), while grammatical purists positioned the apostrophe after the "s" believing Presidents' deferred the day to the "many" rather than one singular "President."
Well, there you have it. Believe the WaPo at your own risk.