So in an effort to give his men a badly needed break, to recognize the heritage of many of his soldiers and to express solidarity with the “brave and generous” people of Ireland, Washington issued general orders on March 16, 1780, proclaiming St. Patrick’s Day a holiday for his troops. It was the first day of rest for the Continental Army in more than a year. “The General directs that all fatigue and working parties cease for to-morrow the SEVENTEENTH instant,” read the orders, “a day held in particular regard by the people of [Ireland].”
Washington also told his troops that he expected “that the celebration of the day will not be attended with the least rioting or disorder.” While not all St. Patrick’s Day celebrations are well-behaved affairs, it appears that this one was. Soldiers may not have quaffed green tankards of ale, but the men of the Pennsylvania Division at least enjoyed a hogshead of rum that had been purchased by their commander. In appreciation of his actions, the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick, a relief organization for Irish immigrants, named Washington an honorary member in 1782.
1874: “Print shows portion of a parade with float in the center bearing a bust of Daniel O’Connell, Saint Patrick’s day in New York City, at Union Square with the German Savings Bank in the upper right corner and Trinity(?) Church in the background.”
1928: “Washington society youngster shoes pony for children’s horse show. Young Howland Russell, grandson of Mrs Borden Harriman, refuses to intrust to a groom the important business of preparing his pony “Tottles” for the Children’s Horse Show which will held in the National Capital on St. Patrick’s Day”
1939: “St. Patrick’s Day spirit at Capitol. Washington, D.C., March 17. Sons of the auld sod in Congress, assisted by Benny Goodman, swing band leader, celebrated St. Patrick’s Day with music today on the Capitol steps. Seen in the photo are, left to right – Senator Joseph O’Mahoney, Wyoming – Eunice Healy, dancer in Goodman’s show – Benny Goodman, and Senator Claude Pepper of Florida”
1953: “Mother and daughter, half-length portrait, standing, facing front, wait for Saint Patrick’s Day Parade, New York City.”
1954: Grace Kelly wearing a green dress for a St. Patrick’s Day photo shoot
1958: Senator John F. Kennedy and wife, Jackie, campaigning for his Senate re-election in Boston’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
Update: One more!
1974: “Pat Nixon Celebrating Her St. Patrick’s Day Birthday aboard Air Force One”