It turns out that Presidents Day isn't really a formal federal holiday at all. Monday's official holiday was created to honor the birthday of George Washington, the nation's first president. Over the years, it has become known as Presidents Day, and most people think it honors both presidents.
But the reality is that there is no federal holiday recognizing the 16th president, said Dave Blanchette, spokesman for the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Ill.
"The state of Illinois wishes that Lincoln was placed on equal footing" with Washington, with a holiday all his own, Blanchette told The Times.
Over the decades, public opinion polls have always put the two men in a neck-and-neck race for the No. 1 and No. 2 spots when it comes to importance in American history, he said.
"They both deserve a holiday," Blanchette said.
Still, he said, Lincoln historians are grateful that the nation's attention turns to Lincoln at this time each year. (There were official observances recently of the 203rd anniversary of Lincoln's Feb. 12, 1809, birth.)
The task facing Lincoln was arguably more challenging than the one facing Washington, he said.
Washington helped oversee the creation of the United States. But Lincoln was the figure who kept the United States from falling apart because of the Civil War.
"It's a shame," Blanchett said. "Many people don't know who fought the Civil War or why, or why it should matter to us today."