Why give Dad another Father’s Day tie?

Have you ever wondered why ties are by far the most popular gift for Dads on Father’s Day? Having just designed a line of James Cox Knits tie knitting kits I can’t help but ask.

A little research revealed that it all started on July 5, 1908, in Fairmont, West Virginia, where Grace Golden Clayton held the first observance of a day for fathers in the Williams Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church South. Grace was mourning the death of her father in the Monongah Mining Disaster in which 361 men were killed, 250 of them fathers, leaving around one thousand children fatherless.

But the holiday as we know it can best be attributed to a woman named Sonora Smart Dodd from Spokane, Washington. On June 19, 1910 she held a Father’s Day celebration at her local YMCA. She wanted to honor her father, William Jackson Smart, a civil war veteran and single parent who raised six children. But it wasn’t till after hearing a sermon about Mary Jarvis of Grafton, West Virginia, and her work to establish Mother’s Day that Dodd went to her pastor and proposed that fathers should have a similar holiday. She suggested June 5, her father’s birthday, but the pastor didn’t have time to prepare a proper sermon so the celebration was held on the third Sunday in June. Other local clergymen supported the idea, and on June 19th, sermons honoring fathers were presented all across the city of Spokane.

Dodd worked to create a national awareness of Father’s Day. The holiday was met with resistance for decades because Americans viewed it as nothing more than an attempt to replicate the commercial success of Mother’s Day. Newspapers even featured cynical and sarcastic attacks and jokes. However, merchants remained committed and even incorporated these attacks into their advertisements. Dodd eventually sought the support of trade groups that would benefit most from the holiday, such as manufacturers of ties, tobacco pipes and other traditional presents for men. By 1938, she had help from the Father’s Day Council, founded by the New York Associated Men’s Wear Retailers.

A bill to accord national recognition of the holiday was initially introduced in Congress in 1913. Presidents Woodrow Wilson and Calvin Coolidge each failed to gain support from Congress. And In 1957, Maine Senator Margaret Chase Smith wrote a proposal accusing Congress of ignoring fathers for 40 years while honoring mothers.

In 1966 President Lyndon Johnson issued the first presidential proclamation honoring fathers, officially designating the third Sunday in June as Father’s Day. And in 1972, President Richard Nixon made the day a permanent national holiday when he signed a congressional bill into law.

Today, a day is dedicated annually to fathers in 140 counties around the world. I don’t know that ties are the most popular gift in Bangladesh, Tonga or Zimbabwe. But I do know that I have a collection of ties that are more than neckties, because they’re playing a small part in the preservation of a tradition that started over 100 years ago. They are gifts from my daughter, and I cherish every one of them.Save