Today is Presidents’ Day, the descendant of the federal holiday originally created in 1879 to celebrate the birthday anniversary of George Washington, our first president and, arguably, the “indispensable man” in America’s fight for independence.
Presidents’ Day did not exist during the early days of Mequon settlement, but the Clarks, Turcks, Bonniwells and their neighbors—whether native-born Americans or recent immigrants—were generally patriotic folk and to one degree or another their politics were mostly free-soil, anti-slavery and pro-Union.
So in their patriotic spirit, here’s a colorful presidential salute for you from the Clarks’ era. It was published in New York in 1844 by Nathaniel Currier, whose prints were for sale, at affordable prices, even in remote locations such as the new Wisconsin Territory.
Currier, Nathaniel (American, 1813-1888). Presidents of the United States, 1844. Hand-colored lithograph on wove paper, 13 x 9in. Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Mrs. Harry Elbaum in honor of Daniel Brown, art critic. Color and exposure adjusted.
What happened to “Lincoln’s Birthday”?
I grew up in Illinois, the “Land of Lincoln,” where Old Abe’s birthday was, and remains, a state holiday. So we had holidays to honor the birthdays of both presidents: Lincoln on February 12, and Washington on February 22. How we got from those separate, specific commemorations to a generic federal holiday (and three day weekend) providing “an occasion to remember all U.S. presidents, to honor Abraham Lincoln’s and Washington’s birthdays together, or any single president of choice,” is a complicated story. Here’s the main info in a nutshell:Continue reading