The date is inspired by the date of the Federal Charter of 1291, Pacte du Rütli, placed in "early August", when "three Alpine cantons swore the oath of confederation" (Schwyz, Uri and Unterwald), an action which later came to be regarded as the founding of Switzerland." The document is one of several dozen pacts attested for the territory of Switzerland in the period of the mid-13th to mid-14th century. The foundation of the Old Swiss Confederacy had been mostly associated with the Bund of Brunnen of 1315, or with the Rütlischwur, dated to 1307 by Aegidius Tschudi.
The Federal Charter of 1291 first assumed great importance in a report by the Federal Department of Home Affairs of 21 November 1889, suggesting a celebration in Bern in 1891 that would combine the city's 700th anniversary with the Confederacy's 600th anniversary.
The date of the Federal Charter came to replace the formerly more prominent, traditional date of 8 November Rütlischwur, 1307 in popular consciousness in the 20th century, specifically after the 650th anniversary celebrations of 1941.
It has been an official holiday since 1994, following the acceptance of a federal popular initiative in its favour in 1993.
1 August is celebrated each year with paper lantern parades, bonfires, hanging strings of Swiss flags, fireworks and competitive rifle shooting matches.