Happy Labor Day! [PHOTOS]
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Courtesy of the Dept. of Labor; 1963
On September 5, 1882, 10,000 workers took unpaid time off to march from City Hall to Union Square. This is historically recognized as the first Labor Day parade in U.S. history. For most, Labor Day denotes the end of summer, the beginning of the school year, a much needed day off from work. And while all of that may be true, here’s the history behind the holiday.
In the 19th century, the average person worked 12 hour days, 7 days a week, disregarding any days of rest in order to make ends meet. There was no ‘paid time off,’ no vacation days – just work.
According to the United States Department of Labor, recent research supports the contention that Labor Day was the brainchild of machinist Matthew Maguire, who supposedly devised the idea in 1882 while serving as secretary of the Central Labor Union in New York. But some still feel it was Peter J. McGuire, a cofounder of the American Federation of Labor and general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, who founded the holiday. (Pictures of the founding fathers can be seen below).
Though the debate as to who founded Labor Day figures to continue, historians do know that the first Labor Day was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York. This was in accordance with plans from Maguire’s Central Labor Union, which would go on to encourage other states and cities to adopt the first Monday in September as Labor Day, and celebrate it accordingly just as it was being celebrated in New York.
As labor unions grew, more and more cities started celebrating Labor Day, which McGuire suggested should be a day to honor those “who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold.”
As the popularity of Labor Day grew, governmental recognition was not far behind. By 1885, municipal ordinances recognizing Labor Day had been passed, and from those eventually sprouted a movement to inspire state legislation. Though the holiday was first celebrated in New York, in 1887 the state of Oregon became the first state to pass a law recognizing the first Monday of September as Labor Day. New York, along with Colorado, Massachusetts and New Jersey, followed suit that same year. As the 1880s drew to a close, Connecticut, Nebraska and Pennsylvania were recognizing Labor Day, and by 1894, 23 other states had adopted the holiday to honor workers.
But it wasn’t until June 28, 1894 that Congress would officially pass an act that declared the first Monday in September of each year a legal holiday. This applied to all states as well as the District of Columbia.
Happy Labor Day! Give it up to our ancestors who ensured that our hard work would be recognized, at the very least, one day a year.