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The History of Labor Day

Labor DayThose fun beach vacations are becoming a distant memory, and the kiddos are packing their book bags for another busy school year. That can only mean one thing – summer is winding down and Labor Day is around the corner.

For most folks, there are two well-known factoids about Labor Day – it’s celebrated every year on the first Monday of September, and it’s not OK to wear white after Labor Day (oh, the horror!) The history of Labor Day, however, is filled with some pretty interesting tidbits.

Here are 5 things you might not know about the history of Labor Day:

  1. The idea of celebrating U.S. workers first occurred in the early 1880’s. It was inspired in part by American union leader Peter McGuire, who was invited to Canada to attend celebrations honoring the country’s workers.
  1. McGuire was so impressed by Canada’s labor celebration that he returned to the U.S. and helped plan the United States’ first Labor Day parade, which took place on September 5, 1882 in New York City. Thousands of NYC laborers marched from City Hall to Union Station and celebrated with picnics, concerts and speeches.
  1. In 1887, Oregon became the first state to make Labor Day a legal holiday.
  1. Labor Day was put on the national map in 1894 when railway workers in Illinois went on strike to protest wage cuts. President Grover Cleveland sent in over 10,000 troops to help end the strike, and things turned ugly. Two striking workers were killed. To help pacify workers across the country, Cleveland signed a bill into law making Labor Day a federal holiday.
  1. Although Labor Day’s original intent was to honor hard-working Americans, the modern-day take on the holiday is that it’s our last weekend to kick back and enjoy summer.

Bonus – the old saying “No white after Labor Day” comes from the story that upper-class folks would return home from their summer holidays and put away their cool, white summer clothes as they headed back to school and work. Who knew?!

If you’d like another history lesson, check out A.R. Mazzotta’s company history!