The idea of Father’s Day was conceived slightly more than a century ago by Sonora Dodd of Spokane, Wash., while she listened to a Mother’s Day sermon in 1909. Dodd wanted a special day to honor her father, William Smart, a widowed Civil War veteran who was left to raise his six children on a farm. A day in June was chosen for the first Father’s Day celebration, June 17, 1910, proclaimed by Spokane’s mayor because it was the month of Smart’s birth.
The first presidential proclamation honoring fathers was issued in 1966 when President Lyndon Johnson designated the third Sunday in June as Father’s Day. Father’s Day has been celebrated annually since 1972 when President Richard Nixon signed the public law that made it permanent.
Here are some statistics about fathers as provided by the Census Bureau.
• 70.1 million - Estimated number of fathers across the nation in 2008, the most recent year for which data are available.
• 24.4 million - Number of fathers who were part of married-couple families with children younger than 18 in 2012. Of those, 21 percent were raising three or more children younger than 18 (among married-couple family households only), and 3 percent were a subfamily living in someone else’s home.
• 1.96 million - Number of single fathers in 2012; 16 percent of single parents were men. Nine percent were raising three or more children younger than 18; about 44 percent were divorced; 31 percent were never married; 20 percent were separated; and 5 percent were widowed; Forty-two percent had an annual family income of $50,000 or more.
• 189,000 - Estimated number of stay-at-home dads in 2012. These married fathers with children younger than 15 have remained out of the labor force for at least one year primarily so they can care for the family while their wife works outside the home. These fathers cared for upward of 369,000 children.
• 18 percent - In Spring 2011, the percentage of preschoolers regularly cared for by their father during their mother’s working hours.
• $1.9 billion - Amount of child support received by custodial fathers in 2009; they were due $3.5 billion. In contrast, custodial mothers received $19.5 billion of the $31.7 billion in support that was due.
• 34 percent - Percentage of custodial fathers who received all child support that was due in 2009, not significantly different from the corresponding percentage for custodial mothers, 42 percent.
• 70 percent - Percentage of custodial fathers receiving noncash support, such as gifts or coverage of expenses, on behalf of their children. The corresponding proportion for mothers was 58 percent.
• 7,368 - The number of men’s clothing stores around the country (as of 2010), a good place to buy Dad a tie or shirt.
• 15,542 - The number of hardware stores (as of 2010), a place to buy hammers, wrenches, screwdrivers and other items high on the list of Father’s Day gifts. Additionally, there were 6,764 home centers across the country in 2010.
• 21,418 - Number of sporting goods stores in 2010. These stores are good places to purchase traditional gifts for dad, such as fishing rods and golf clubs.
• 79.1 million - The number of Americans who participated in a barbecue in 2010. It’s probably safe to assume many of these barbecues took place on Father’s Day.