As the kids head back to school and summer draws to a close, we still have one summertime tradition on the calendar to celebrate – Labor Day. This annual observance occurs on the first Monday of September, and is recognized as a federal holiday. How much do you know about the history of Labor Day?
There is some controversy over who first suggested the concept of Labor Day. Some say it was Peter J. McGuire, the general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and co-founder of the American Federation of Labor, while others maintain that a machinist named Matthew Maguire suggested the idea while serving as secretary of the Central Labor Union in New York.
The first Labor Day celebration was held on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York City, thanks to the planning of the Central Labor Union. Another event was held the following year on the same date. By 1885 the first Monday in September had been selected as the day of honor, and many industrial centers throughout the country were holding celebrations.
Throughout the next two decades, Labor Day was recognized as a legal holiday through state legislation and acts of Congress. By 1894 it was a national holiday. The form of celebration for the day was laid out in the initial proposal for the holiday – a parade to showcase the strength and unity of the American worker, followed by a festival for the enjoyment of workers and their families.
Over the years, the frequency of parades has declined due to the logistics of holding them in industrial centers, while it has become common to have community leaders make speeches regarding the significance of the day. Three-day weekends and barbecues with friends and families are now the norm.
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