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A Brief History of Labor Day

Updated on August 8, 2010
A Brief History of Labor Day
A Brief History of Labor Day

Happy Labor Day

On the first Monday of September every year workers across the United States celebrate Labor Day.   Labor Day was created by the labor movement and its purpose is to celebrate the social and economic achievements of American works.  Labor Day is a tribute the contributions of American workers to America’s prosperity. 

The First Labor Day Was Celebrated in New York City
The First Labor Day Was Celebrated in New York City

The Founder of Labor Day

There is some dispute as to who is the official founder of Labor Day.  Some credit Peter McGuire as the founder of Labor Day.   Peter McGuire was the general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and a co-founder of the American Federation of Labor.  McGuire was the first to suggest a day to honor hard working Americans. 

Others credit the founding of Labor Day to Matthew Maguire.  Maguire was a secretary of Local 344 of the International Association of Machinists in Patterson, New Jersey.  Maguire proposed the Labor Day holiday in 1882 while serving as the secretary of the Central Labor Union in New York.  The Union adopted a Labor Day proposed and planned a demonstration and picnic. 

Who Founded Labor Day is Under Dispute
Who Founded Labor Day is Under Dispute

The First Labor Day

The first recorded Labor Day holiday was celebrated in New York City on September 5, 1882.  This day was spurred about by the Central Labor Union and supported by President Grover Cleveland.  Creating peace with workers was a priority of the Cleveland Administration in the aftermath of the Pullman Strike where workers were killed by US soldiers during a strike.   In 1884 the first Monday of September was chosen as the official date of the holiday.  Shortly thereafter other cities followed suit and by 1885 Labor Day was celebrated in most of the industrial cities of the county. 

Labor Day was First A State by State Movement Although Supported by President Grover Cleveland
Labor Day was First A State by State Movement Although Supported by President Grover Cleveland

Labor Day Legislation

As the Labor Day movement grew through union support, the holiday became more and more popular.  The first government legislation to recognize Labor Day came in 1885 and 1886 in New York.  However, the first official “law” dedicating Labor Day came in Oregon in 1887.  Later that same year Colorado, New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts passed similar laws.  In 1894, Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September of each year a legal federal holiday in DC and the territories.  A Nationwide Holiday

Labor Day is More Than Just A Day Off, It Celebrates The Achievements of Workers
Labor Day is More Than Just A Day Off, It Celebrates The Achievements of Workers

Celebrating Labor Day.

The first Labor Day celebrations were marked with parades and speeches supporting workers rights.  Today, Labor Day parades can found all over the country.  But for most Americans, Labor Day is a day off of work that is spent with family and friends.  Perhaps the first proposals did not intend Labor Day to be spent in backyards in front of barbeques, but is there really any better way to spend a hard earned day off?


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    • bgpappa profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Sacramento, California

      Can't beat that suzie

      Thanks for reading

    • suziecat7 profile image


      9 years ago from Asheville, NC

      It's still a paid holiday for me. Great Hub.

    • bgpappa profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Sacramento, California


      I feel your pain. Corporations have too much power and many of the unprivileged vote against their own interests in favor of "social conservatism." But I still like to BBQ on Labor Day.

      Thanks for reading.

    • valeriebelew profile image


      9 years ago from Metro Atlanta, GA, USA

      I don't know, bgpappa. From what I'm seeing happen to the average worker today, I'd say we need to take to the streets in protest. My man won in November of 08, but the opposing party is keeping him from getting much done, and many of us are losing hope that the economy will ever heal. As huge corporations continue to prosper at the expense of the common worker, the middle class continues to be systematically eliminated as the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Frankly, I don't see anything to celebrate about today. America is not the land of opportunity it once was, and many as myself, hold Masters Degrees or higher while working for minimum wage. Still ignorant low income workers continue to support unregulated capitalism, the culprit here, and scream for renewal of the Bush Tax cuts. Maybe they are getting just what they deserve; however, I do not want what they deserve, and don't feel I deserve it. Sorry, I had to be the first to comment on this site. The unions have lost their teeth, and with them the working people have lost all bargaining power in America, as wealthy corporations outsource overseas to people who are desperate enough to allow slave labor. Basically big business wants slaves as it always has; the civil war was not faught for nothing. America has been a rare jewel in which the welfare of all Americans mattered, but I see that attitude leaving us as more and more only money is valued in our country, with no concern or care for those who do not have it. Since this is a comment, not a hub, I will end it here. But most of us should march in black on labor day. (:v


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