The History and Heritage of Labor Day

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Apart from the fact that it’s celebrated on the first Monday in September every year and that you get a day off work on Labor Day, what else do you know about the public holiday that started in 1894? According to the US Department of Labor, the holiday “constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.” Today, Labor Day is all those things and more as it’s also a great day for retailers, and for some Americans it’s the unofficial end of the summer.

History

We owe two men a debt for creating Labor Day. The history books don’t conclude whether Matthew Maguire, who was with the International Association of Machinists, or Peter McGuire, who was part of the Brotherhood of Carpenters, initiated the holiday but both are said to have been equally important in establishing the day. When Peter McGuire witnessed the annual labor festival in Canada, he proposed a similar holiday in the US. When Matthew Maguire proposed Labor Day to the Central Labor Union in 1882, he did so without reference to McGuire’s proposal that occurred earlier in the same year.

Labor Day Parade

The first Labor Day Parade occurred on September 5, 1882. On that day, approximately 10,000 New Yorkers participated. Each took unpaid leave to support the event. That parade began at City Hall, went passed Union Square and then along 42nd Street. It came to an end at 92nd Street and 9th Avenue in Wendel’s Elm Park, where the participants stopped for a picnic and a concert. Today, Labor Day is celebrated with parades and carnivals across the nation.

The first Labor Day Parade occurred on September 5, 1882. On that day, approximately 10,000 New Yorkers participated. Each took unpaid leave to support the event. That parade began at City Hall, went passed Union Square and then along 42nd Street. It came to an end at 92nd Street and 9th Avenue in Wendel’s Elm Park, where the participants stopped for a picnic and a concert. Today, Labor Day is celebrated with parades and carnivals across the nation.

Federal Law

Although Labor Day isn’t directly responsible for the Adamson Act, it certainly helped gain national recognition that change was needed in the employment laws. The Adamson Act was a law passed in 1916 that regulated working hours and limited them to eight hours a day in private companies. Overtime pay was also part of the act that stood in place until 1996 when it was repealed, although all of the major terms within it remain within the United States Code.

Labor Day Traditions

Many consider Labor Day to signal the end of the summer but it’s also thought of as the start of the college football season. Many still wonder why the NFL doesn’t begin its season on that weekend but at least it gives NCAA football the spotlight. Tennis fans come out in force on Labor Day as the US Open coincides with the holiday and NASCAR mark the weekend with Throwback Weekend at Darlington. The Southern 500 has been a Labor Day tradition since it began in 1950, although the traditional date was lost for 15 years as the race moved around the schedule to accommodate larger markets.

End of Summer

Labor Day is normally the last day before school starts again, which might be why it’s seen as the end of the summer, and it’s also a time in which retailers make a lot of money. The day has become so popular with shoppers that it’s the second biggest day for retailers after Black Friday. Fashionable readers will already know that Labor Day is also considered the last day on which it’s acceptable to wear white.