Thursday, February 21, 2013

Washington's Birthday Reconsidered

Over at the Boston1775 blog John L. Bell has posted an interesting article which is titled,
Washington’s Birthday at Washington’s Headquarters. It contains this ironic tidbit:
[February 22, 1732] is the date America finally settled on as the anniversary of George Washington's birth. And shortly before the Bicentennial the federal government established its Washington’s Birthday (Presidents’ Day) holiday as the third Monday in February, which  can never [my italics] be the 22nd.
But this is not the whole story as Bell points out in his earlier blog of February 19th. Washington's birthday was actually recorded as being February 11, 1731 O.S. (Old Style).

The British had thought the Gregorian calendrical reform of 1582 to be some sort of Papal plot and stubbornly refused to abandon their conventional Julian calendar until September 2, 1752 O.S. As Virginia was still an English colony at the time, Washington was actually born on a date set by the Julian calendar.  To complicate matters further, the Julian year began in March instead of  January, so Washington was recorded as being a born a year earlier.

A hat tip to the comment posted by JMS for alerting me to the Boston1775 article.

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