Coast Guard Day is held every August 4 to commemorate the founding of the United States Coast Guard as the Revenue Marine on 4 August, 1790, by then Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton. On that date, Congress, guided by Hamilton, authorized the building of a fleet of the first ten Revenue Service cutters, whose responsibility would be enforcement of the first tariff laws enacted by Congress under the Constitution.
The Coast Guard received its present name through an act of Congress signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson on 28 January 1915 that merged the Revenue Cutter Service with the U.S. Life-Saving Service, and provided the nation with a single maritime service dedicated to saving life at sea and enforcing the nation’s maritime laws.
The Coast Guard began to maintain the country’s maritime aids to navigation, including operating the nation’s lighthouses, when President Franklin Roosevelt announced plans to transfer of the U.S. Lighthouse Service to the Coast Guard in May 1939. Congress approved the plan effective 1 July, 1939. On 16 July 1946, Congress permanently transferred the Department of Commerce Bureau of Marine Inspection and Navigation to the Coast Guard, thereby placing merchant marine licensing and merchant vessel safety under Coast Guard regulation.
After 177 years in the Treasury Department, the Coast Guard was transferred to the newly formed Department of Transportation effective 1 April 1967. As a result of the events of 11 September 2001, the Coast Guard was transferred to the new Department of Homeland Security effective 1 March 2002.
Coast Guard Day is primarily an internal activity for active duty and reserve Coast Guardsmen, civilian employees, retirees, auxiliarists, and dependents, but it does have a significant share of interest outside the service. Coast Guard units throughout the United States usually plan picnics and informal sport competitions together with family and friends on Coast Guard Day. Grand Haven, Michigan, also known by act of Congress as Coast Guard City, USA, annually sponsors the Coast Guard Festival the week of August 4.