Observed on the first Monday in September, Labor Day pays tribute to the contributions and achievements of American workers. It was created by the labor movement in the late 19th century and became a federal holiday in 1894. Labor Day also symbolizes the end of summer for many Americans, and is celebrated with parties, parades and athletic events (The History Channel).
What could be more relaxing than a day of sleeping in, heading to the beach (or the park) for a cookout with the family, and then playing softball on a long afternoon in late summer? To call a day with such a lax agenda “Labor Day” seems ironic unless the roots of the holiday are understood.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the holiday was instituted in order to recognize the social and economic achievements of United States workers. (A quickly diminishing species in 2014.)
As to whose idea it was, there is an ongoing debate regarding which famous union leader initiated the first Labor Day: Peter McGuire or Matthew McGuire. Even now, after over one hundred years of celebration, historians cannot agree on which man should get the credit.
But in either event, the first Labor Day was celebrated in 1882, with sporadic celebrations thereafter. It was not until 1909 that a specific day was set aside every year to recognize our nation’s workers. From then on, citizens set aside one day per year not only to rest from their labors but also to recognize the hard work and dedication that has made this country great.
Next week, right before Labor Day weekend, I’ll send you Part 2 in our Labor Day History series, in which we will detail some of the great American workers down through the years.
A mind always employed is always happy. This is the true secret, the grand recipe, for felicity. ~Thomas Jefferson
At *your* service,