Retailers helped propel Father’s Day

Published 1:55 am Saturday, June 16, 2018

Father’s Day arrives the third Sunday in June and presents a special way to show the fathers in one’s life how much they are cherished. People shower dads with gifts but may not know just how Father’s Day came to be.

The concept of Father’s Day was inspired by Mother’s Day celebrations and was initiated by a woman named Sonora Smart Dodd, who wanted to do something to honor her single father. The concept of Father’s Day was slow to take root. However, the retail industry helped propel Father’s Day to a national holiday.

In the early days of Father’s Day, Dodd worked with her local YMCA and local churches to adopt what was supposed to be a religiously influenced holiday. But in the early 1900s, dads did not necessarily have the same hands-on role that many fathers have today. Cartoons published in newspapers, such as the Washington Star in 1913, portrayed Dad as the breadwinner and a distant fellow who wasn’t as involved as his wife in day-to-day interaction with his children. A 1915 issue of the St. Johns Herald and Apache News from Arizona joked that fathers probably didn’t want another holiday and would be more content to drink, smoke and sleep in late. Dodd and others realized that marketing would be key to Father’s Day’s success.

Clothing manufacturers, people who made tobacco and other merchants of products made for men found Father’s Day a way to sell merchandise. It just took a while for them to come around.

A Father’s Day Council was started in the 1930s and was propelled by a group called the New York Associated Menswear Retailers. Many people joke that, because neckties are so often given on Father’s Day, the necktie industry must’ve had a hand in endorsing Father’s Day. And there is truth to that. The council was responsible for selling shirts, hats and, of course, neckties.

In 1938, the National Council for the Promotion of Father’s Day was formed, primarily due to poor menswear retail sales. Dry goods, clothing and tobacco associations help promote Father’s Day, and after they held a “Father’s Day Sports Day” parade in 1941, Father’s Day sales increased, and the holiday became more popular.