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A Closer Look at Labor Day

August 30, 2013

There’s a keystone in every great invention

Hard to believe but summer is almost over! Despite the fact that the summer season does not official end until September 22, Labor Day weekend usually marks the unofficial end of summer. In many ways, this yearly celebration is a quintessential American holiday.

Observed on the first Monday in September, Labor Day is a celebration of the achievements of American workers. We take time out to reflect and honor the contributions of the American worker.  Though there is some disagreement on the person who came up with the concept of Labor Day, we do know it was first celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882 in New York City. In 1884, the holiday found it permanent home on the first Monday in September and in June of 1894 it became a federal holiday.

As with most holidays, Labor Day has grown and changed along with the political and social moods of the times. For many years, it had a strong attachment to America’s organized labor movement and unions. Historians point out that Federal recognition was sped into being in the aftermath of the disastrous and deadly Pullman Railroad workers strike in 1984.

Today, Labor Day is more about celebrating with family and friends with community parades, picnics, BBQs, and parties.  There is less of an emphasis on the activities of organized labor as the United States workforce has changed over the last several decades.  Although many larger urban areas still have fairly large-scale union events over the Labor Day weekend.  

Some of the other interesting facts about Labor Day include:

  • Much to the chagrin of kids, (and to the thrill of parents!) it marks the beginning of the school year in some locations.  
  • There is a tradition that white or seersucker is never to be worn after Labor Day!
  • There is an on-going debate as to whether Peter J. McGuire or Matthew Maguire created the holiday
  • In 1887, Oregon was the first state to make Labor Day a holiday
  • Canada’s Labour Day, celebrated on May 1, actual predates America’s by 10 years

However you celebrate Labor Day 2013, just remember to take some time out to give thanks to all the hardworking men and women across the U.S. who make us the envy of the world!