History of Labor Day
Labor Day is observed the first Monday of September each year. The History of Labor Day is intended to pay tribute to the contributions and achievements of American workers. The first Labor Day was held back in 1882. Its origins come from the desire of the Central Labor Union to create a holiday to celebrate workers. It did not became a federal holiday until 1894. The original intention of the holiday was to make it a day filled with street parades which allow the public to appreciate the work of the trade and labor organizations. After the parade, a festival was to be held to entertain those local workers and their families. Eventually it became a custom for prominent men and women to give speeches. This is less common now, but can sometimes be seen in election years. One of the reasons for choosing to celebrate this on the first Monday in September was to add a holiday in the long gap between 4th of July and Thanksgiving. For many this is the last long weekend to get away for a trip before summer ends.
According to The U.S. Department Of Labor, through the years the nation gave increasing emphasis to Labor Day. The first governmental recognition came through municipal ordinances passed during 1885 and 1886. From these, a movement developed to secure state legislation. The first state bill was introduced into the New York legislature, but the first to become law was passed by Oregon on February 21, 1887. During the year four more states — Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York — created the Labor Day holiday by legislative enactment. By the end of the decade Connecticut, Nebraska, and Pennsylvania had followed suit. By 1894, 23 other states had adopted the holiday in honor of workers, and on June 28 of that year, Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September of each year a legal holiday in the District of Columbia and the territories.
More than 100 years after the first Labor Day observance, there is still some doubt as to who first proposed the holiday for workers.
Some records show that Peter J. McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and a cofounder of the American Federation of Labor, was first in suggesting a day to honor those “who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold.”
But Peter McGuire’s place in Labor Day history has not gone unchallenged. Many believe that Matthew Maguire, a machinist, not Peter McGuire, founded the holiday. Recent research seems to support the contention that Matthew Maguire, later the secretary of Local 344 of the International Association of Machinists in Paterson, N.J., proposed the holiday in 1882 while serving as secretary of the Central Labor Union in New York. What is clear is that the Central Labor Union adopted a Labor Day proposal and appointed a committee to plan a demonstration and picnic.
No matter how you choose to celebrate Labor Day, keep in mind the intended meaning. The hard work and dedication of American workers is what makes our country. Be grateful and thankful for their dedication.
Picture credit to The U.S. Department Of Labor