The U.S. is not the only or even the first country to set aside an observance for the working class. The observance, as we know it, originated in Canada in the 1870s. A number of European countries have May Day celebrations that have a similar focus.
As for who initially proposed Labor Day in this country, opinions are split. Most historians consider Peter McGuire the Father of Labor Day in the U.S. He was an Irish-American cabinet maker who was also the general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners. But there is another camp who contends it was actually a different McGuire – a machinist named Matthew McGuire – who was responsible.
Without labor nothing prospers.
The first Labor Day celebration in the U.S. was celebrated on September 5, 1882 (which was a Tues. by the way, not a Monday). It was held in New York City’s Union Square and was designed to ease tensions with city workers after numerous strikes and outbreaks of violence.
The first Labor Day parade was held the following year in September of 1883. More than 10,000 workers took an unpaid holiday in order to participate. The event was in actuality a rally of laborers calling for an 8 hour work day (at this time 12 hour work days were the norm).
Take rest; a field that has rested gives a bountiful crop.
Though the movement started in the east, the first state to declare Labor Day a state Holiday was Oregon. From there it moved to Colorado, New York and Massachusetts. So you can say it had a west to east progression.
It was 12 years after that first celebration, in June of 1894, that Labor Day became a national holiday. Grover Cleveland was President at the time. He was a staunch opponent of organized labor groups but he actually pushed hard for this in an attempt to quell the unrest that was erupting in labor riots across the nation.
By the time Labor Day was declared a federal holiday, it was already a state holiday in thirty states.
If all the cars in the United States were placed end to end,
it would probably be Labor Day Weekend.
Other Fun Facts:
- The old-school rule about not wearing white after labor day is thought to have to do with the fact that in earlier years, the wealthy wore white linen suite and Panama hats as they escaped to fancy summer resorts. When they returned to the sooty, dusty, grimier cities of the work-a-day world, they once again donned their drabber clothing.
- The first Waffle House restaurant opened for business on Labor Day in 1955.
- Once touted as a day to celebrate the working class, Labor Day has taken on the added significance of being a day that marks the following milestones:
- The end of summer
- The beginning of the school year
- The unofficial kickoff of the NFL season
- And, according to the National Hot Dog & Sausage Council, hot dog season begins on Memorial Day and ends on Labor Day.
- According to U.S. Highway accident stats, Labor Day weekend is one of the most dangerous weekends to be on the road. The likely cause – many high schoolers and collegians consider it the last party weekend before heading back to school.
- Labor Day ranks third in the list of popular days for barbecuing, right behind Independence Day and Memorial Day.
There you have it, the highlights I discovered when digging through the facts and lore surrounding Labor Day.
So were any of these footnotes new to you? And do you do anything special to celebrate the day?