Constitution Day & Citizenship Day
September 17th, holds a special place in American history. Two-hundred-thirty-three years ago, on September 17, 1787, history was made when the Constitution was signed.
In the United States of America, September 17th has been recognized and celebrated as Constitution Day and Citizenship Day. On this day, the nation celebrates the anniversary of the Constitution being signed and all individuals who have been, are, or will be citizens.
The History of Citizenship Day
Citizenship Day originally began as “I Am an American Day” in 1940 after William Randolph Hearst suggested that a holiday be created to celebrate American citizenship. Congress responded to Hearst’s suggestions and designated the third Sunday in May as “I Am an American Day”. The holiday quickly gained support and by 1949, the governors of the forty-eight (48) existing states had issued state proclamations in agreement with the national holiday.
There were many people who felt that “I Am an American Day” should correspond with the anniversary of the signing of the Constitution. Eventually, this led to a movement across the county to change the date of “I Am an American Day” to September 17. Leading this movement was Olga T. Weber, who in 1953, convinced both the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives to approve moving the holiday to September 17. After the resolution passed by Congress was signed by President Eisenhower, “I Am an American Day” became known as Citizenship Day.
The History of Constitution Day
Constitution Day would not be possible without the efforts of Lousie Leigh who, after taking a course in Constitutional History, was inspired and wanted to encourage recognition of the importance of the signing of the Constitution. Through her efforts, Constitution Day was officially recognized as a holiday alongside Citizenship Day in 2004 after the passage of the Constitution Day amendment to the Omnibus Spending Bill.
Constitution Day has been recognized as a day of celebration alongside Citizenship Day since 2005, and the holiday has been officially renamed Constitution Day and Citizenship Day.[i]
Enjoy some fun facts about the Constitution on Constitution Day and Citizenship Day:
- Six men signed both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution: George Read, Roger Sherman, Benjamin Franklin, Robert Morris, George Clymer, and James Wilson.
- Only 39 of the 55 delegates to the Constitutional Convention signed the document.
- The Constitution contains 4,543 words, including the signatures, and has four sheets, 28-3/4 inches by 23-5/8 inches each. It contains 7,591 words including the 27 amendments. The U.S. Constitution is the oldest and shortest written Constitution of any major government in the world.
- James Madison, “the Father of the Constitution,” was one of the first to arrive in Philadelphia for the Constitutional Convention.
- James Madison was the only delegate to attend every meeting. He took detailed notes of the various discussions and debates that took place during the convention. The journal that he kept during the Constitutional Convention was kept secret until after he died.
- Thomas Jefferson did not sign the Constitution. He was in France during the Convention, where he served as the U.S. minister.
- John Adams was serving as the U.S. minister to Great Britain during the Constitutional Convention and did not attend either.
- The oldest person to sign the Constitution was Benjamin Franklin (81). The youngest was Jonathan Dayton of New Jersey (26).
- George Washington and James Madison were the only presidents who signed the Constitution.
- Over the past two centuries, more than 11,600 amendments to the Constitution have been proposed. Of those, only 33 have been sent to the states for ratification. Of those, only 27 have been approved. [ii]
[i] If you would like to learn more about the history of Constitution Day visit https://www.constitutionfacts.com/us-constitution-day/history-of-constitution-day/.
[ii] For more fun facts about the Constitution visit https://www.constitutionfacts.com/us-constitution-amendments/fascinating-facts/, https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/553604/facts-about-us-constitution, or https://www.archives.gov/files/boston/education/teachable-texts/10-constitution-facts.pdf.