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WISCHLIST: What you might not have known about dads

Today, Father’s Day stands as the fourth-largest card-sending occasion in the country – trailing only Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day – but it first had to walk one long road to earn its footing as an official holiday.

Way back in 1910, the idea for Father’s Day was first sparked in Spokane, Wash., where a 27-year-old woman named Sonora Dodd. She proposed a day honoring dads as a way to honor her own father, William Jackson Smart, a Civil War veteran who raised her and her five siblings after their mother died during childbirth. Sonora slated the holiday for June – her father’s birthday month.

The Father’s Day movement grew for years and took on a national profile in 1924 when President Calvin Coolidge publicly supported it. But it wasn’t until 1966 that President Lyndon Johnson signed a proclamation calling for Father’s Day to be celebrated on the third Sunday of June.

And it was six years later still, in 1972, when President Richard Nixon officially signed it into law. In honor the holiday, here a few more facts you might not know about dads.

Middle-aged fatherhood

While Father’s Day wasn’t official in the U.S. until the 1970s, there has been a customary day for the celebration of fatherhood in Catholic Europe since at least the Middle Ages. It’s observed on March 19 as the feast day of Saint Joseph, who is referred to as the fatherly Nutritor Domini ("Nourisher of the Lord") in Catholicism and "the putative father of Jesus” in southern European tradition.

America’s Dad

He’s known as the Father of our Country, but George Washington had no children of his own.

A 2004 study suggested that a type of tuberculosis that Washington contracted during childhood may have rendered him sterile. But while George wasn’t a father, he was still a dad, adopting the two children from wife Martha Custis’ first marriage.

I’ll drink to that

In 1912, a man named Halsey W. Taylor invented the drinking fountain as a tribute to his father, who died from typhoid fever after drinking from a contaminated public water supply 16 years earlier.

Today, the water fountain manufacturing and filtration company Halsey Taylor remains in business and is headquartered in Oak Brook.

‘Dad, you’re old’

Experts believe that the word “dad” dates all the way back to the 16th century.

Royal bloodlines

As the 8th-century king of the Franks, Charlemagne is known for uniting much of Western Europe through military campaigns, earning him the nickname the “King and Father of Europe.”

But he might be that in a more literal way too. As the father of (at least) 18 children, many current-day Europeans can likely claim Charlemagne as ancestor.

Oh, Pooh

The author A.A. Milne created Winnie the Pooh for his son, Christopher Robin. He based him on his boy’s teddy bear, named Edward, which Christopher had received for his first birthday, and on their father-son visits to the London Zoo, where a bear named Winnie was the boy’s favorite.

Pooh, meanwhile, was the name of Christopher’s pet swan.

DAVE WISCHNOWSKY can be reached by email at, or follow him on Facebook at, on Twitter at or his blog,

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