Citizens of the United States have celebrated Independence Day and Presidents’ Day since the 1870s, and in 2005, the nation began to celebrate Constitution Day. Also known as Citizenship Day, Constitution Day is an American holiday honoring the day 39 delegates to the Constitutional Convention signed the United States Constitution. This historic date was September 17, 1787.
History of Constitution Day
In 1939, the New York City news tycoon William Randolph Hearst suggested the creation of a holiday to celebrate American citizenship. In 1940, Congress designated the third Sunday in May as “I am an American Day.” President Harry Truman presented the resolution, setting aside this date in honor of the American people, especially those who had recently become citizens of the United States.
The holiday quickly gained support and popularity through the efforts of the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service. It was an immediate hit. Within 5 years, the governors of the existing forty-eight states had issued state proclamations in agreement with the national holiday.
One of the most significant individuals in the development of the holiday was a Louisville, Ohio resident named Olga T. Weber. In 1952, she petitioned the leaders of the municipality to change the date of the holiday to correspond with the anniversary of the signing of the United States Constitution. In 1953, Olga went to United States Congress, and both the Senate and the House of Representatives approved her requests. After Dwight D. Eisenhower signed it, the “I am an American Day” observation became “Citizenship Day” and moved to September 17. Louisville, Kentucky was the first city in the United States to celebrate Citizenship Day on September 17, 1952.
Another important figure in the creation of Constitution Day is Louise Leigh. Through her efforts, Constitution Day became an official holiday alongside Citizenship Day in 2004 when, with the help of support from Senator Robert Byrd, the “Constitution Day” amendment to the Omnibus Spending Bill passed. In May 2005, the United States Department of Education backed the law when it announced that it would apply to any school receiving federal funds of any kind.
Constitution Day, along with Independence Day and Presidents’ Day, is an important part of the cultural heritage of the United States of America, because it recognizes the value of the American experiment, and the success of a nation of free people whose rights and liberties are protected by a written Constitution.
Excerpt from The History of Constitution Day. (n.d.). History of Constitution Day. Retrieved September 5, 2014, from http://www.constitutionfacts.com/us-constitution-day/history-of-constitution-day/