A Brief History of Labor Day

By WRSH on August 30, 2018 - Comments off

Thanks to the New York Public Library for a snapshot of the past!

The 1800s

What it was like to be a worker in America in the 1800s?

In 1830, the average manufacturing employee worked a 70-hour week, often without a day off. By 1890, thanks to efforts by workers and unions that number had fallen to 60 hours a week, but the labor was still intense.

Ultimately, the idea behind Labor Day was for these kinds of workers to get a day off.

The First Labor Day

The very first Labor Day was celebrated in New York City on Tuesday, September 5, 1882. Plans were proposed by the Central Labor Union in NY for a public parade and demonstration along with a picnic. They organized the first Labor Day.

The following year, Labor Day was held again on September 5th—but in 1884, it was decided that it should be celebrated on the first Monday of September, regardless of the date. It was meant as a way to celebrate “the worker” and all the ways laborers had contributed to the growth and prosperity of the U.S.

A National Holiday

On June 28, 1894, President Grover Cleveland signed legislation that made Labor Day a federal holiday throughout the country and in the District of Columbia.

The Creator of Labor Day

While much is known about the history of Labor Day, the identity of the creator of the idea for the holiday is controversial. It was believed to be Peter J. McGuire, Secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners.

The identity of who first suggested Labor Day may never be known, that doesn’t stop us from enjoying a Monday off to spend time with friends and family.

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