Father’s Day is commonly viewed as an occasion with its roots in commercial enterprise. In fact, its origins date back to 1910 in the United States where a woman called Sonora Smart Dodd wanted to honour her father, a veteran who had, as a single parent, raised six children on his own. Inspired by the US Mother’s day tradition she introduced the idea of a designated day to celebrate fatherhood and the first official Father’s Day was celebrated on June 19th, 1910. The celebrations in the United Kingdom are thought to have been inspired by this American custom. This is in contrast to Mother’s Day, which has a very different history in the United States and the United Kingdom.
Unlike Mother’s Day, Father’s Day was originally met with laughter. It was the target of much satire, parody and derision with a local newspaper complaining that it would lead to mindless promotions such as ‘National Clean Your Desk Day’.
Today however, it is a popular occasion in the United Kingdom and cards and gifts are commonly offered in much the same way as on Mother’s Day. Traditionally fathers would have been given the gift of white or red roses. The rose is the official flower for Father’s Day. Wearing a red rose signifies a living father, while a white one represents a deceased father.
It is highly unlikely that any of our Edwardian British sitters would yet have got wind of this relatively modern tradition, yet still would have thought to celebrate such an occasion but it is certain that the children pictured in these plates had much to thank their fathers for, as indeed do we. There are many male portraits, and many images of children among our plates, but it is rare that we uncover a father and child group portrait. The family groups we have are overwhelmingly of children pictured with their mothers – and we imagine that many of these would have been taken as reminders for men at the front. But among the plates we do have a small handful of heart-warming father and child portraits and in light of Sunday’s celebrations, we share them with you today.
Happy Father’s Day!