The story of Labor Day

It may be just another three-day weekend, but the roots of Labor Day run deep in American history. The first Labor Day was celebrated on September 5, 1882, in New York. The Central Labor Union was responsible for the first celebration.

In 1884, the first Monday in September was chosen as Labor Day and the Central Labor Union in New York encouraged other labor organizations around the country to celebrate a “workingmen’s holiday” on that date. By 1885, the holiday was being celebrated in many industrial centers across the country.

There’s a debate about who is responsible for the holiday. Some credit Peter J. McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and cofounder of the American Federation of Labor. Others believe it was a machinist named Matthew Maguire who founded Labor Day. Maguire proposed the holiday in 1882, while serving as secretary of the Central Labor Union in New York. Whether it was McGuire or Maguire, we can be certain it was an Irishman who was responsible for the holiday.

Eventually states begin passing Labor Day legislation. The first was New York, followed by Colorado, Massachusetts, and New Jersey. In the years that followed many other states did the same and in 1894, Congress passed an act making the first Monday of September a legal holiday.

According to the United States Department of Labor the holiday “is a creation of the labor movement and dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.”

So as you lift your beer or bite into that hot dog or hamburger on this Labor Day, pat yourself on the back, because this holiday is a celebration of you.  

 

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