It comes to no surprise that the annual President’s Day holiday sparks feelings of nationality, patriotism, and considerable countrywide honor. As a day that encompasses more than two hundred years of American history and leadership, it is impossible not to regard this holiday as a perennial day of remembrance. The day celebrates centuries of leadership by our earnest and fearless founding fathers, who have upheld American values for more than two hundred years.
Interest in the presidency has remained at a pinnacle since the first president took the oath on the balcony of the Federal Hall on Wall Street in 1789. Speaking to the near celebrity status that every president has achieved, pieces owned by the President - or even simply within the President’s realm - possess a higher importance than any other, such as plates and chinaware that the president used in his everyday life. Heralded relics of the president also epitomize the majesty for which presidents are regarded. Accordingly, these functional objects take on a new personality of immense importance and popularity.
Before it was known as President’s Day, this day was explicitly celebrated as George Washington’s birthday. Officially signed in 1971, this day became the first holiday to celebrate the life of a single American individual. In 1885, the holiday spread throughout the entire nation outside of the District of Columbia, calling for every American to pause and reflect on America’s first great leader. By the late 1860s, the shift from the holiday as Washington’s Birthday gave way to the holiday now known as President’s Day, telling of the deep regard that American citizens have always held for America’s Chief Executive.
When George Washington became the first president of the young nation, his earnest work ethic garnered him a status of immense popularity and repute. Starting the country anew on unsteady ground due to the Revolutionary War, Washington’s militaristic knowledge and political passion brought in a new era of prosperity of the nation. Because of his triumphant effort in this war, Washington is venerated as one of the most important figures in American history, and is credited for helping give birth to the independent American people. Depicted on the center of every dollar bill, Washington’s remembrance as America’s premiere patriotic leader is extraordinary. It is to no astonishment, therefore, that antiques like silver pieces, china wares, and porcelain from the personal collection of George Washington hold their own grandeur.
As the dust settled after the Revolutionary War, America and its new three-branched political system was on a steady path of great international prestige and influence. Fast forward thirty-one presidencies into the term of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Leading America through one of its most trying times, the Great Depression, Roosevelt served not only as a model of reassurance for all citizens, but a dignitary of persistence and strength during the post World War II era. Exhaustion characterized the mood of the majority of the American people, but with the help and advice of his radio broadcasted "fireside" chats, Roosevelt elevated the spirits of citizens. After the passing of his “New Deal” and various militaristic and diplomatic campaigns, Roosevelt laid the groundwork of peace in post-war America.
In modern day America, Presidents’ Day remains a time for remembrance and pride in America’s leaders – past and present. Throughout the rich history of America, one can look back and regard the triumphal efforts and successes of past presidents. Each year, President’s day offers a revival and recollection of this shared history. With the help of art and antiques that recall these past leaders, the rich past of America is still very much alive today.
Expand your knowledge and admiration for our nation's leaders by exploring the career and work of an artist who is remembered for capturing some of our nation's most historic figures. Gilbert Stuart is responsible for composing some of the most iconic images of our nation's leaders, including George Washington's portrait that appears on the face of every dollar bill. His remarkable portraits pay homage to our nation, and also shaped the style of American portraiture that exists into today.