The Library

Our American Holidays: Washington’s Birthday {Free eBook}

Our American Holidays: Washington's Birthday {Free eBook}

Just in time for Presidents Day, here is yet another free eBook in the Our American Holidays series. Our American Holidays: Washington’s Birthday edited by Robert Haven Schauffler includes a great deal of primary source information that will complement our Presidents Day study.

The subtitle gives you a clear idea of what you will find in the book: Its History, Observance, Spirit, and Significance as Related in Prose and Verse, with a Selection from Washington’s Speeches and Writings. The preface describes the intent of the editor:

The popular idea of Washington has recently [1926] begun to veer away from the vision of an eighteenth century demigod in a wig,—an old-fashioned statue in dusky bronze, stern and forbidding. We are swinging around toward the idea of a loveable, fallible, very human personality with humor, a hot temper, and a genuine love of pleasure.

Accordingly, in gathering material for this book the editor has passed by those earlier writers who are mainly responsible for this distorted view; and he has aimed to gather here the essays, orations poems, stories, and exercises which best exhibit the modern conception of Washington; together with a selection from his own writings and the finest of the elder tributes to the memory of our greatest National Hero.

The readings are broken down into the following categories:

  • Washington’s Birthday, the holiday we now celebrate as Presidents Day.
  • Early years.
  • General.
  • President.
  • Last days.
  • Tributes.
  • Washington’s legacy.
  • Character.
  • Anecdotes.
  • Speeches and writings.
  • Poetry for recitation.

Contributors include:

  • Oliver Wendell Holmes.
  • Edward Everett Hale.
  • Daniel Webster.
  • Henry Cabot Lodge.
  • Kate Douglas  Wiggin.
  • Washington himself.

At the time of writing, Washington’s birthday was a holiday in every state except Alabama. You can read how this holiday morphed into the Presidents Day we now celebrate in our Presidents Day Holiday Helps page.

This passage from the introduction gives a clearer idea of the misconceptions the book was intended to refute:

It is a shameful thing that there should ever have been any doubt in American minds of the true significance of Washington either as man or soldier or statesman. But the writers of our day have decided that—if they can help it—the sins of the fathers are not going to be visited upon “the third and fourth generation.” The call has gone out for modern champions of our ancient champion; and literature has responded with a will.

It takes long, however, to straighten out a national misconception. The new literature has not yet had time to take hold of the popular imagination. But when it does, and when we cease to regard the Father of our Country as a demigod, and begin to love him as a man, then Washington’s Birthdays everywhere will lose their stiff, perfunctory, bloodless character, and recover the inspiring, emotional quality of the early celebrations.

This is a wonderful addition to our Presidents Day resources along with the Washington sections of our free history studies — and it’s free!

Free eBook

 

Additional Resources

Free History Studies: George WashingtonFree History Studies: George Washington
We have added this book to the Washington portion of our free history studies where you’ll find dozens of other resources including background information, interactives, printables, and more!

Presidents Day {Holiday Helps}Presidents Day {Holiday Helps}
Many other Lincoln resources in our Presidents Day unit.