Labor Day traditionally marks the end of summer with the last long weekend and the harbinger of the fall season. But long before it took the meaning of the last cook-out of the summer, it held a deeper meaning for a much higher cause that began at the dawn of the industrial revolution.
- Labor Day was originally established as a day to honor those who toiled twelve hours a day, seven days a week to keep America running in the late 1800’s.
- There are two versions of who created Labor Day – Peter J. McGuire, secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and cofounder of the American Federation of Labor, suggested the day be put aside to honor those “who from rude nature have delved and carved all grandeur we behold.”
- The second Labor Day creation version involves Matthew Maguire, secretary of the Local 344 of the International Association of Machinists in Paterson, NJ, who proposed the holiday while acting as secretary of the Central Labor Union in 1882. Maguire planned to have a picnic and demonstration in honor of American laborers.
- Either way, the first observance of Labor Day is believed to have been a parade on Sept. 5, 1882 (pictured above), in New York City, probably organized by Peter J. McGuire, a Carpenters and Joiners Union secretary.
- By 1893, more than half the states were observing a “Labor Day” on one day or another, and a bill to establish a federal holiday was passed by Congress in 1894. President Grover Cleveland signed the bill soon afterward, designating the first Monday in September as Labor Day.
- Tuesday, September 5th, 1882 marked the first Labor Day celebration in New York City when 10,000 workers took an unpaid holiday and marched in Union Square, marking the first Labor Day parade. These participants vocalized grievances with employers as well as celebrated the American workers’ accomplishments. The next year a similar demonstration was held on the same day.
- Colorado, New York, Massachusetts and New Jersey were the first states to declare Labor Day a state holiday.
- On June 28th, 1894 the first Monday in September was declared Labor Day by President Grover Cleveland.
- Labor Day in now celebrated, not only in the United States, but also in Canada and other industrialized nations.