Constitution Day (United States)

Constitution Day

Jefferson High School Marching Colonials performing at the National Archives Building on Constitution Day, 1974
Official name Constitution Day and Citizenship Day
Observed by United States
Celebrations Constitution 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]
Date September 17
Frequency annual
Related to I am an American Day

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". 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 would include members such as Calvin Coolidge, John D. Rockefeller, and General John Pershing.[5]

I am an American Day

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. 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

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]

See also


  1. 1 2 36 U.S.C. § 106, Constitution Day and Citizenship Day
  2. 1 2 "Notice of Implementation of Constitution Day and Citizenship Day on September 17 of Each Year". United States Department of Education. May 24, 2005. Retrieved September 16, 2014.
  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. 108–447, Division J, Title I, § 111, 118 Stat. 2809, 3345, enacted December 8, 2004.
  5. 1 2 3 Williams, Winston C. (ed.). Centennial History of the National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution 1889–1989. Paducah, KY: Turner Publishing Company. p. 9. 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 the Internet Movie Database.
  9. "'I am an American'--nation hails new citizens!". News of the Day. 18 (274). OCLC 422967279.
  10. Edwards, Anne (1987). Early Reagan: The Rise to Power. William Morrow and Company. p. 267.
  11. "The importance of Citizenship Day". Chicago Sun-Times. September 12, 2006. Retrieved February 3, 2013 via HighBeam Research. (subscription required (help)).
  12. "History of Louisville Ohio". Archived from the original on August 3, 2008. Retrieved August 12, 2008.
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Online Lessons for K-12 Teachers to Use on Constitution Day

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