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Constitution Day (United States)

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Constitution Day
Jefferson High School Marching Colonials performing at the National Archives Building on Constitution Day, 1974
Official nameConstitution Day and Citizenship Day
Observed byUnited States
CelebrationsConstitution Day and Citizenship Day commemorate the formation and signing on September 17, 1787, of the Constitution and recognize all who, by coming of age or by naturalization, have become citizens.[1]
DateSeptember 17
Related toI am an American Day
Constitution Week

Constitution Day (or Citizenship Day) is an American federal observance that recognizes the adoption of the United States Constitution and those who have become U.S. citizens. It is normally observed on September 17, the day in 1787 that delegates to the Constitutional Convention signed the document in Philadelphia.[1]

When Constitution Day falls on a weekend or on another holiday, schools and other institutions observe the holiday on an adjacent weekday.[2]

The law establishing the present holiday was created in 2004 with the passage of an amendment by Senator Robert Byrd to the omnibus spending bill of 2004.[3] Before this law was enacted, the holiday was known as "Citizenship Day" and celebrated on the third Sunday in May. In addition to renaming the holiday "Constitution Day and Citizenship Day," the act mandates that all publicly funded educational institutions, and all federal agencies, provide educational programming on the history of the American Constitution on that day.[4] In May 2005, the United States Department of Education announced the enactment of this law and that it would apply to any school receiving federal funds of any kind.[2]



Iowa schools first recognized Constitution Day in 1911.[5] In 1917, the Sons of the American Revolution formed a committee to promote Constitution Day. The committee included members such as Calvin Coolidge, John D. Rockefeller, and General John Pershing.[5]

I am an American Day[edit]

This day was inspired by Arthur Pine, the head of a publicity-public relations firm in New York City bearing his name. At the New York World's Fair, the writers of a new song called "I am an American" brought their manuscript to the attention of Arthur Pine who handled publicity for the band leader, Gray Gordon, and a music publisher. Arthur Pine had the song introduced on NBC, Mutual, and ABC by the orchestra leader, arranged for an "I am an American Day" at the 1939 New York World's Fair, and had a local New York newspaper tie-in with "I am an American Day" in the city. The promotion proved so successful that a newspaper chain promoted "I am an American Day" on a nationwide basis and had President Roosevelt name it as an official day.[6]

In 1939, William Randolph Hearst advocated, through his chain of daily newspapers, the creation of a holiday to celebrate citizenship.[citation needed] In 1940, Congress designated the third Sunday in May as "I am an American Day." In 1944 "I am an American Day" was promoted through the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service.[7] A 16-minute film, I Am an American, was featured in American theaters as a short feature.[8] In 1947 Hearst Newsreels featured the event on News of the Day.[9] By 1949, governors of all 48 states had issued Constitution Day proclamations.[5] On February 29, 1952, Congress moved the "I am an American Day" observation to September 17 and renamed it "Citizenship Day".[10][11]

Louisville, Ohio – the Constitution Town[edit]

Louisville, Ohio, calls itself "Constitution Town", and credits one of its own for getting the holiday national recognition. In 1952, resident Olga T. Weber petitioned municipal officials to establish Constitution Day, in honor of the creation of the US Constitution in 1787. Mayor Gerald A. Romary proclaimed September 17, 1952, as Constitution Day in the city. The following April, Weber requested that the Ohio General Assembly proclaim September 17 as statewide Constitution Day. Her request was signed into law by Governor Frank J. Lausche. In August 1953, she took her case to the United States Senate, which passed a resolution designating September 17–23 as Constitution Week. The Senate and House approved her request and it was signed into law by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. On April 15, 1957, the City Council of Louisville declared the city Constitution Town. The Ohio State Archaeological and Historical Society later donated four historical markers, located at the four main entrances to the city, explaining Louisville's role as originator of Constitution Day.[12]

First U.S. Congressional designation of Citizenship Day[edit]

Congressional Record H1941, Appendix to CR p. A1473

Mrs. A.B. (Clara) Vajda, a Hungarian immigrant to the United States, was recognized in the U.S. Congressional Record as the Founder of Citizenship Day on March 27, 1941.[13] In his remarks, Rep. Wasielewski noted "...on May 3, 1940, the President of the United States approved a joint resolution of both Houses of Congress, setting aside the third Sunday of May of each year as Citizenship Day. The purpose of this Act was to give recognition to all those who, by coming of age or naturalization, have attained the status of citizenship...I wonder how many people in this country really know the true story of the origin of this day. I wonder how many people know that a simple act of charity of a foreign-born citizen was the motivating spark which has set in motion this movement to teach all citizens to appreciate the great honor and privilege which has been bestowed upon them when they assume their sovereign rights of citizenship."[citation needed]


President Donald Trump reaffirmed on September 17, 2017, as Constitution Day and Citizenship Day.[14][15][16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b 36 U.S.C. § 106, Constitution Day and Citizenship Day
  2. ^ a b "Notice of Implementation of Constitution Day and Citizenship Day on September 17 of Each Year". United States Department of Education. May 24, 2005. Retrieved March 13, 2021.
  3. ^ Krache, Donna (September 16, 2005). "Constitution Day ushers in mandate to teach the Constitution". CNN. Retrieved August 12, 2008.
  4. ^ Miscellaneous Appropriations and Offsets Act, 2005, Pub. L.Tooltip Public Law (United States) 108–447 (text) (PDF), Division J, Title I, § 111, 118 Stat. 2809, 3345, enacted December 8, 2004.
  5. ^ a b c Williams, Winston C., ed. (1991). Centennial History of the National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution 1889–1989. Paducah, KY: Turner Publishing Company. p. 9. ISBN 9781563110283. Retrieved January 15, 2011.
  6. ^ Pine, Martin (June 28, 1948). "'American Day' Origin" (PDF). Open Mike. Broadcasting: 16. ISSN 0007-2028.
  7. ^ See:
    • Harrington, Burritt C. (1944). Community Recognition of USA Citizenship: A Handbook for I am an American Day Committees. Washington, DC: Department of Justice, Immigration and Naturalization Service. OCLC 291344729.
    • Evans, Lillian (1944). "Talk on: 'I am an American Day'". New York: Pershing Square Information Center. LCCN 44-40824. OCLC 44675594.
    • Biddle, Francis (May 21, 1944). I am an American (Transcript). Cincinnati, OH: WLW [radio station]. p. 11. OCLC 44635911.
    • Morgan, Dennis (1944). I am an American. Warner Brothers. OCLC 79769249. Black and white film with Morgan speaking to an I am an American Day gathering.
    • Lest we forget. 8th series, Program no, 13, Our nation's shrines. Special program 1944, I am an American (Sound recording). New York: Institute of Oral and Visual Education; Federal Transcribed Programs. 1944. OCLC 317879010.
    • Also see: Farber, William O. (1942). 'I am an American Day' in South Dakota. Vermillion, SD: University of South Dakota. LCCN 83224435.
  8. ^ I Am an American was produced by Gordon Hollingshead, written and directed by Crane Wilbur, and featured Humphrey Bogart, Gary Gray, Gordon Hart, Dick Haymes, Danny Kaye, Joan Leslie, Mary Lee Moody, Dennis Morgan, Knute Rockne, and Jay Silverheels. See: I Am An American at the TCM Movie Database and I Am an American at IMDb Edit this at Wikidata.
  9. ^ "'I am an American' – nation hails new citizens!". News of the Day. Vol. 18, no. 274. OCLC 422967279.
  10. ^ Edwards, Anne (1987). Early Reagan: The Rise to Power. William Morrow and Company. p. 267. ISBN 9780688060503.
  11. ^ "The importance of Citizenship Day". Chicago Sun-Times. September 12, 2006. Archived from the original on May 15, 2013.
  12. ^ "History of Louisville Ohio". Archived from the original on August 3, 2008. Retrieved August 12, 2008.
  13. ^ Congressional Record, H1941, Appendix to the Congressional Record, p. A1473, Extension of Remarks of Hon. Thad F. Wasielewski of Wisconsin, March 27, 1941, RE: Citizenship Day
  14. ^ Office of the Press Secretary (September 15, 2017). "President Donald J. Trump Proclaims September 17, 2017, as Constitution Day and Citizenship Day, and September 17, 2017, through September 23, 2017, as Constitution Week". whitehouse.gov. Washington, D.C. Retrieved September 27, 2017 – via National Archives.
  15. ^ United States Citizenship and Immigration Services Staff (September 14, 2017). "Celebrating Constitution Day and Citizenship Day (Constitution Week) 2017 with Naturalization Ceremonies". United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. Washington, D.C.: United States Government. Retrieved September 27, 2017.
  16. ^ "Constitution Day, Citizenship Day, and Constitution Week, 2017". Federal Register. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration. September 13, 2017. Archived from the original on September 21, 2017. Retrieved September 27, 2017. Alt URL

Further reading[edit]

  • Haverty-Stacke, Donna T. (2009). "World War II and Public Reflections of Americanism'". America's Forgotten Holiday: May Day and Nationalism, 1867–1960. New York: New York University. pp. 182–192. ISBN 978-0814737057

External links[edit]

Online lessons for K-12 teachers to use on Constitution Day[edit]