History of Labor Day

Labor Day pays tribute to the contributions and achievements of American workers and is traditionally observed on the first Monday in September. It was created by the labor movement in the late 19th century and became a federal holiday in 1894 under President Grover Cleveland.

Peter J. McGuire, a carpenter and labor union leader and Matthew Maguire were the two who who came up with the idea for Labor Day. They thought American workers should be honored with their own day. Peter was the vice president of the American Federation of Labor and Matthew was secretary of the Central Labor Union in New York. Some stories say these men with similar last names were actually brothers. In any case, they chose a date midway between the Fourth of July and Thanksgiving. The weather would be ideal for parades and picnics, two events we still enjoy on Labor Day today. They proposed his idea to New York’s Central Labor Union early in 1882, and they thought the holiday was a good idea, too. This holiday was in response to a series of worker strikes in the late 19th century as workers protested against unfair working conditions.

The first Labor Day holiday was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York City, in accordance with the plans of the Central Labor Union. The Central Labor Union held its second Labor Day holiday just a year later, on September 5, 1883.

***Data from: earthsky.org, history.com, americaslibrary.com, Wikipedia, NY Times

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