Labor Day

For many Americans, particularly children and college students, Labor Day represents the end of the summer and the start of the back-to-school season.

In truth, “Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.” [The U.S. Department of Labor]

By the late 18th century, as manufacturing increasingly supplanted agriculture as the wellspring of American employment, labor unions grew more prominent and vocal.

The first “Labor Day” parade was held on September 5, 1882, in New York City.  Beginning in lower Manhattan, near City Hall, as many as 20,000 marchers headed along Broadway to Reservoir Park, “…the termination point of the parade. While some returned to work, most continued on to the post-parade party at Wendel’s Elm Park at 92nd Street and Ninth Avenue; even some unions that had not participated in the parade showed up to join in the post-parade festivities that included speeches, a picnic, an abundance of cigars and, “Lager beer kegs… mounted in every conceivable place.”” []

The idea of a “workingmen’s holiday,” celebrated on the first Monday in September, caught on in other industrial centers across the country, and many states passed legislation recognizing it, but Congress resisted creating a national holiday.

Then, in June, 1894, in the wake of the massive, violent unrest during the Pullman railcar strike in Chicago, and in an attempt to repair the frayed ties with American workers, Congress finally passed the act making Labor Day a legal holiday in the District of Columbia and the territories.

Though the founder of the modern holiday is still disputed, Labor Day is celebrated in cities and towns across the United States with parades, picnics, barbecues, fireworks displays and other public gatherings.

Celebrate safely, my friends!

TracyTracy Garrett

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