Labor Day signals the end of summer and a day off for many people. Nevertheless, why is it called Labor Day? On Labor Day, we celebrate the contributions of our nation’s working families and communities.
Since 1894, it has been recognized as a legal holiday in the United States and Canada. The first Labor Day in the United States was celebrated by labor unions, though the origin of the holiday is unclear.
Historians agree that the concept of a day for workers to show solidarity was first proposed by Peter McGuire. He was a general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and cofounder of the American Federation of Labor.
Matthew Maguire, later the secretary of the International Association of Machinists Local 344 in Paterson, New Jersey, is credited by some. As far as we can tell, Maguire’s Central Labor Union was the first to propose a way to celebrate Labor Day.
Early History Of Labor Day
Every year on the first Monday in September, Americans take time off to recognize the contributions that their workforce has made to the nation’s economy and society.
The origins of the holiday can be traced back to the latter part of the nineteenth century when labor activists pushed for a federal holiday to honor the significant role that workers have played in building and maintaining the United States’ strength, prosperity, and well-being.
Labor Day was celebrated by unions and individual states long before it was declared a federal holiday. There was a push for statewide legislation after local ordinances were enacted in 1885 and 1886.
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Despite New York’s early introduction of a bill, Oregon’s 21 February 1887 passage of a law acknowledging Labor Day makes it the state’s earliest such law. Four different states, Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York, all passed legislation in 1887 establishing Labor Day as a legal holiday.
Later in the decade, other states like Connecticut, Nebraska, and Pennsylvania joined in. The first Monday of September was declared a legal holiday by Congress in 1894 after 23 additional states had already done so.
Where Did Labor Day Get Its Start?
Who originally suggested that workers be given a day off? Exactly who created Labor Day is up for debate, but at least two workers have valid claims to the honor.
Records indicate that in 1882, Peter J. McGuire proposed designating a day as a “general holiday for the laboring classes” to honor those “who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold.”
However, Peter McGuire’s significance to Labor Day history is not universally accepted. It is widely held that the holiday was not created by Peter McGuire but rather by the machinist Matthew Maguire.
New evidence suggests that in 1882 while serving as secretary of the Central Labor Union in New York, Matthew Maguire, who would later become secretary of Local 344 of the International Association of Machinists in Paterson, New Jersey, proposed the holiday.
After President Cleveland signed the bill creating a national Labor Day, the Paterson Morning Call published an editorial. It stated that “the souvenir pen should go to Alderman Matthew Maguire of this city. He is undisputed Founder of Labor Day as a holiday.”
This is according to the New Jersey Historical Society. It was in New York City that Maguire and McGuire witnessed the very first Labor Day parade in the country.
Labor Day In Modern Times
A street parade to display “the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations” of the community. Recreation and amusement of the workers and their families are common ways that many Americans celebrate Labor Day today. This set the standard for Labor Day festivities.
Later, the holiday’s growing economic and political significance was highlighted. The tradition of speeches by notable men and women was instituted.
Later still, in 1909, the American Federation of Labor convention passed a resolution designating the Sunday before Labor Day. As Labor Sunday is a day to reflect on and learn more about the labor movement’s spiritual and educational roots.
The labor movement has brought us closer to achieving our traditional ideals of economic and political democracy. It has helped raise the standard of living for all Americans.
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Labor Day Traditions And Festivals
- Lake in the Hills, Illinois hosts the Summer Sunset Festival, a multifaceted event that features a dance competition, wine tasting, live music, a car show, and numerous kid-friendly activities. A massive fireworks display caps off the event.
- Auburn, Indiana hosts the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Festival, a week-long celebration of all things automotive that culminates on Labor Day with a barbecue, a concert, and fireworks.
- Chicago Jazz Festival: For four days each summer since 1979, visitors to Chicago’s historic Millennium Park have been treated to free jazz performances. There will likely be hundreds of thousands of people there.
- Favored by locals, the Hamtramck Labor Day Festival takes place every year in Michigan. The event is centered around a parade that features traditional Polish dance troupes and includes carnival rides, live music, food, and canoe races.
- St. Louis’s downtown is the site of an annual Labor Day parade attended by thousands of local union members who show their support for the holiday by showing their solidarity with the working class. This weekend also hosts a number of other festivals.
- California’s Fort Bragg celebrates the legendary lumberjack Paul Bunyan and his trusty blue ox, Babe, as part of Labor Day festivities. There will be a parade, arts and crafts, and a logging show and competition.
- Matthews, North Carolina: The Matthews Alive Festival and Parade take place in downtown Matthews for four days near Labor Day. It features floats and a marching band and is one of the largest parades in the region.
How Do We Celebrate Labor Day Now?
People still show up for Labor Day parades and speeches. But the holiday is now more commonly seen as a celebration of the end of summer than anything else. This is not necessarily a bad thing, though.
People in this country work longer hours and take fewer vacation days, so a farewell summer party is much appreciated. Even if Labor Day isn’t a day when workers are specifically recognized and celebrated. It still provides a welcome break for those who work.
An appreciation day is in order because as an entrepreneur, you are helping others and providing for your own family. In addition, it’s crucial to schedule breaks, such as vacations and weekend trips.
Find out if there are any Labor Day celebrations planned for your area. It’s not uncommon for communities to maintain their tradition of holding parades and other celebrations, such as music festivals.
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