City Paper is not for tourists
Rumor has it that Presidents’ Day was created in a 1971 proclamation by Richard Nixon (himself a president). According to the story, Nixon announced that the federal holiday of Washington’s Birthday would be moved from Feb. 22 to the third Monday of February, and that its name would be changed to commemorate other old favorites like Abraham Lincoln, as well as instant classics like Nixon himself.
In fact, a federal holiday celebrating all U.S. presidents has never existed. Though the celebration of Washington’s birthday moved to a standard Monday celebration during Nixon’s time in office, the holiday’s official title remains Washington’s Birthday.
This 2004 piece by historian C.L. Arbelbide tracks the source of the rumor: Apparently, it was lifted from an Arkansas Democrat-Gazette humor column wherein author Michael Storey staged a fictional interview with his cat, who fabricated the Nixon story.