From wikipedia's entry about the history of Father's Day:
In the United States, the first modern Father's Day celebration was held on July 5, 1908, in Fairmont, West Virginia. It was first celebrated as a church service at Williams Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church South, now known as Central United Methodist Church. Grace Golden Clayton, who is believed to have suggested the service to the pastor, is believed to have been inspired to celebrate fathers after the deadly mine explosion in nearby Monongah the prior December. This explosion killed 361 men, many of them fathers and recent immigrants to the United States from Italy. Another possible inspiration for the service was Mother's Day, which had recently been celebrated for the first time in Grafton, West Virginia, a town about 15 miles away.
Another driving force behind the establishment of the integration of Father's Day was Mrs. Sonora Smart Dodd, born in Creston, Washington. Her father, the Civil War veteran William Jackson Smart, as a single parent reared his six children in Spokane, Washington. She was inspired by Anna Jarvis's efforts to establish Mother's Day. Although she initially suggested June 5, the anniversary of her father's death, she did not provide the organizers with enough time to make arrangements, and the celebration was deferred to the third Sunday of June. The first June Father's Day was celebrated on June 19, 1910, in Spokane, WA.
Unofficial support from such figures as William Jennings Bryan was immediate and widespread. President Woodrow Wilson was personally feted by his family in 1916. President Calvin Coolidge recommended it as a national holiday in 1924. In 1966, President Lyndon Johnson made Father's Day a holiday to be celebrated on the third Sunday of June. The holiday was not officially recognized until 1972, during the presidency of Richard Nixon.
In recent years, retailers have adapted to the holiday by promoting male-oriented gifts such as electronics, tools and greeting cards. Schools and other children's programs commonly have activities to make Father's Day gifts.