20 June 2021

History of Father's Day in Utah

Salt Lake Tribune 1926-06-19
Happy Father’s Day!

Father’s Day was first proposed and celebrated by Sonora Smart Dodd in Spokane, Washington in 1910 as a tribute to her father, a widower who raised Sonora and her siblings.

Utah Governor William Spry heard about Sonora’s proposal and was an early supporter saying that he believed much good would come from honoring fathers.

The Salt Lake newspapers were not so supportive, and they cringed at Governor Spry’s suggestion to adopt the holiday in Utah. The Salt Lake Herald Republican had to the clarify that the Governor was “not jesting.” Both the Deseret News and the Salt Lake Tribune suggested that celebrating a Father’s Day holiday would emasculate fathers. Governor Spry soon dropped the idea.

In 1912 the Westminster Presbyterian Church located at 175 W 500 South (now demolished) brought in a new pastor from Spokane, Washington. Reverend Robert Asa Smith had been celebrating Father’s Day since its inception in Spokane in 1910 and he brought the celebration to Salt Lake City in 1912 where he offered a special Father’s Day sermon in which he said:
“I believe men, especially fathers, would be better if loved more. The feeling that no one holds him in the deserved affection has sent many a man into a careless and ruinous life.”
“I call upon you to honor father’s love. I refute the idea that woman has all the heart and all the love and that man is not capable of it. He may be gruff and reticent, but he really loves.”
Slowly other Salt Lake City area churches began adopting a Father’s Day celebration on the 3rd Sunday in June but still the newspapers seemed cool to the idea.

In 1915 the Salt Lake Herald sarcastically suggested that a way to celebrate Father’s Day was to challenge fathers to endurance tournaments in holding babies, dish washing contests, and a speed competition to see how fast their paycheck went to their wife.

In 1916 the Salt Lake Telegram considered that it might not be a terrible idea and asked around what others thought. One person was concerned about how Salt Lakers would be able to celebrate Father’s Day if Utah became a dry state (which happened Aug 1 1917).

In the 1920s downtown Salt Lake City business started promoting sales for Father’s Day gifts, especially ties, hats, shirts, and other items that “dad needed.”

By 1923 the Deseret News was warning of the “Father’s Day Rush” at downtown stores. Display windows were decorated for the occasion and Father’s Day gift ideas advertisements were throughout the newspapers.

In 1925 KSL broadcast a radio address on the “sanctity of fatherhood” by Axel A Madsen and that removed any further misgivings Utahns had about the holiday.

The 3rd Sunday in June officially became recognized as Father’s Day in 1966 through a proclamation by President Lyndon Johnson. It became a national holiday in 1972 when President Nixon signed it into law.

Sources: SL Herald 1910-05-13; Deseret News 1910-05-21, SL Trib 1910-06-29; SL Trib 1912-05-20; SL Herald 1915-05-19; SL Telegram 1916-05-21; Deseret News 1923-06-14

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