Monday, August 31, 2020

Labor Day, September 7, 2020

The Jennie Woodworth Library will be closed on Labor Day. Our dropbox on the north end of the building will be available for those that are returning materials. 

While your government offices and buildings are typically closed on Labor Day and the vast majority of Americans enjoy family get-togethers and such, do you know why Labor Day is a holiday?


Labor Day is the first Monday in the month of September. This day is set aside in order to honor the laborer. Labor Day became a federal holiday in 1894 because of the American labor movement during the height of the Industrial Revolution.

Why we celebrate?

Just before the end of the 19th century, American workers had 12-hour workdays, 7-days a week. This labor was just to squeak by on. There were even children as young as 5 or 6 that would be working in factories and mines.

The conditions of the workplace for the manufacturing industry was often precarious. Fresh air, sanitary facilities, and safe working conditions were a luxury. Those that were susceptible to these jobs were the poor and recently immigrated.

The labor unions that first developed in the late 18th century became more prominent and began organizing strikes and rallies in order to compel employers to improve both the conditions and the workload. Unfortunately, many of these events became violent. This included the infamous Haymarket Riot of 1886 in Chicago where both policemen and workers were killed.

Other events can be attributed to the tradition of "Labor Day", on September 5, 1882, some 10,000 workers took an unpaid day in order to march in New York City from City Hall to Union Square. This became the first Labor Day parade in U.S. History.

12 years later the employees of the Pullman Palace Car Company went on strike protesting their treatment on May 11, 1894. This was followed by a boycott on June 26, 1894, of the Pullman railway cars that was led by Eugene V. Debs and the American Railroad Union. The resulting onslaught of riots and death forced Congress to legalize the "workingmen's holiday".

Who created Labor Day?

President Grover Cleveland signed the law instituting Labor Day on June 28, 1894. This was done in hopes to repair the relations with American workers and squelch the unrest.

The individual that came up with the idea of the holiday, although both Peter J. McGuire of the American Federation of Labor and Matthew Maguire of the Central Labor Union have both been credited.

Labor Day Celebrations

Many state and local governments went on to adopt the holiday and thus celebrate it. Since Labor Day falls on a Monday, it typically encompasses the entire weekend that it is attached to.

In the past, these celebrations have included parades, picnics, barbeques, fireworks, and other celebrations. Often Labor Day is acknowledged as the end of summer and return to school.

Concluding Thoughts

“The vital force of labor added materially to the highest standard of living and the greatest production the world has ever known and has brought us closer to the realization of our traditional ideals of economic and political democracy,” notes the Labor Department. “It is appropriate, therefore, that the nation pays tribute on Labor Day to the creator of so much of the nation's strength, freedom, and leadership— the American worker.”


History of Labor Day. (n.d.). Retrieved August 11, 2020, from Editors. (2010, April 13). Labor Day 2020. Retrieved August 11, 2020, from

Longley, R. (2019, September 04). The Purpose and History of the US Labor Day Holiday. Retrieved August 11, 2020, from

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