ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Labor Day - What Does it Mean?

Updated on July 23, 2015

Labor Day, which falls on the 1st Monday in September, has been a federal holiday since 1894. Originally a way to recognize the achievement and contributions of American workers, it has become the unofficial way to mark the end of the summer and the beginning of the new school year. Outdoor pools usually close after this date and many fall sports begin, but what is the history behind the holiday?

Working Conditions in the US.

By the height of the Industrial Revolution the average American worked a 12 hour day, often seven days a week just to make enough money to survive. In some states children were still being employed in the mines, factories and mills for extremely low wages.

Working conditions were often appalling. Limited access to fresh air, insanitary conditions and insufficient breaks as well as often dangerous machinery in factories all led to the beginnings of organized strikes and rallies in support of changes to these conditions.

Puddling Furnace

The puddling furnace revolutionized the way Iron was produced. The life expectancy of puddlers was short because of the terrible conditions they had to work under.
The puddling furnace revolutionized the way Iron was produced. The life expectancy of puddlers was short because of the terrible conditions they had to work under. | Source

Haymarket Riot of 1886


The manufacturing industry soon over took agriculture, increasing the number industrial workers. Labor unions grew more prominent and vocal. Strikes and rallies were organized to protest over the poor conditions. The aim of the rallies was to negotiate hours and pay, but often resulted in violence.

On September 5th 1882 10,000 workers took unpaid time off work to march in New York city. They marched from city Hall to Union Square marking the first Labor Day Parade in the US.

The Haymarket Riot (Chicago) of 1886

A peaceful protest was planned in support of workers request for an eight-hour day. As the police began to disperse the crowd a bomb was thrownA bomb was thrown. This resulted in gun shots being fired and several police and demonstrators were killed, many others were injured.

A harsh anti union feeling followed the riot. There was huge support for the police and many thousands of dollars were donated from businesses to provide funds for the injured police officers medical care and to assist their efforts. Police raids were carried out with many suspects arrested. Eight men were prosecuted and found guilty and seven of them were sentenced to death.The sentencing provoked outrage from labor and workers' movements and their supporters. It resulted in protests around the world.

Protest Grows

On May 11th 1894 the employers of Pullmans Palace Car Company in Chicago went on strike to protest wage cuts and the firing of Union representatives.

On June 26th of the same year the American Railroad Union led by Eugene V Debs called for a boycott of all Pullman railway cars. This crippled railroad traffic nationwide. To break this strike the federal government sent troops to Chicago, which resulted in a wave of riots and the deaths of over 12 workers.

Congress grew concerned about the movement and in an attempt to repair ties with the American Workers passed an act making Labor Day a legal holiday.

History of Labor Day


The first proposal for a Labor Day celebration included a street parade and a festival for the workers and their families. There were speeches by prominent men and women, barbecues, fireworks displays and parties.

So Where Did the Idea for the Holiday Come From?

Historically here are two people generally attributed with proposing the idea of Labor Day.

One thought is that Matthew Maguire, a machinist proposed the holiday while serving as secretary to the Central Union.

Alternatively, Peter J McGuire, of the American Federation of Labor proposed the Day after witnessing the annual labor festival in Toronto Canada.

Modern Labor Day

Labor Day today usually marks the end of summer and the beginning of the new school year. In fashionable circles it is considered the last day to wear white. It also marks the beginning of several fall sports. NCAA teams usually play their first games the weekend of Labor Day. The NFL traditionally plays their first game the Thursday following Labor Day and Labor Day is the middle point between weeks 1 and 2 of the US Open Tennis Championships held in Flushing Meadows, New York.

Every year on Labor Day, a West Indian carnival is held in Brooklyn, New York. The carnival attracts between one and three million participants. Several Carribean islands are represented in the parade as well as South American countries such as Guyana and a Central American country known as Belize.

Costume from the Labor Day Carnival Parade


© 2014 Ruthbro


Submit a Comment

No comments yet.


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)