This day is quite different from many other American holidays, where they have military origins. This particular day though has different roots, obviously by the name of the day. So, what is US Labor Day all about?
US Labor Day – 1st Monday of September
Express Your Thoughts Below!
I would love to hear from you.
Before I Discuss Labor Day!
Before you do start to read this post you may wish to watch a brief video from the History Channel that discusses the history of this day.
Credit: History Channel
I do hope that you enjoyed watching the video and hope that you continue to read this post as I explore the origins of Labor Day.
I will also discuss what you can do during these holidays and also how you can explore the occupations of your ancestors.
History of Labor Day!
I will start by saying that with most US holidays the meaning of these days usually gets lost in time. But I feel that the intentions of this day have not changed since this day was created more than a century ago.
Working 84 hours a week, oh my!
During the late 1800s, working conditions for the average American worker were very brutal and stressful too.
Not only were the workforce expected to work for 12 hours a day, but also 7 days a week.
You would expect quite a good living these days by working so many long hours. But in those days this amount of work would only help you to get by.
A pretty much basic living.
Even children worked!
To top it all off people of all ages, including children as young as 5 or 6, would work in unsafe conditions.
Plus, they probably would have no access to fresh air or have adequate facilities or breaks.
To contest these harsh conditions labor unions began to organize strikes and rallies.
These events would often turn ugly. For example, during the Haymarket Riot of 1886 several workers and Chicago policemen were killed.
When Was The first Labor Day?
The first Labor Day took place back on Tuesday, September 5th, 1882. The labor movement started to gather momentum and it was the Central Labor Union who was responsible for this day.
This union in New York wanted to have a holiday for the workers.
Celebrating Labor Day around the world!
Other countries around the world had their holidays for their workers and this union wanted to follow suit.
They too wanted to pay tribute to the achievement and the contributions of the American workers.
A second Labor Day holiday occurred on September 5th, 1883. And then in 1884, it was proposed that the day to pay tribute to the American worker would be on the first Monday of September.
By 1885 this event became widespread all over America within many of its industrial centers.
A rail strike gave birth to Labor Day!
It would take another 9 years for this day to finally become a federal holiday in 1894.
But it was only after there was a failed attempt to stop a railroad strike.
The American Railroad Union crippled the nation’s railroad traffic. Troops were thus sent to Chicago to break up the strike but riots ensued. In the mayhem of this event more than a dozen workers lost their lives.
Congress wanted to put an end to these constant riots and rallies, (and also the needless loss of life).
During his second run as President of the United States, Grover Cleveland would finally make Labor Day a holiday.
Labor Day Origins and Its Evolution!
So, that was how Labor Day began, a day where the hard work of America’s people, its’ backbone would be appreciated.
But it has now become quite a different day from its’ initial intentions.
The original festivities
The original intention was to have a street parade in towns and cities across America.
This event would allow the public to show their appreciation for both the work and labor organizations.
Then after the parade, there would be a festival held for the workers and also for their families as well.
Speeches conducted by men and women from within the community also became popular. However, this is not seen so much these days.
Although you do see this sometimes during election years.
By 1909 the Sunday preceding Labor Day was adopted as Labor Sunday. This day would be dedicated to the educational and spiritual aspects of the labor movement.
Mass displays and huge parades did become a problem within the large industrial centers.
And so the focus of these days shifted towards the individual and the family. They would thus be responsible for paying tribute to the workers of America in their way.
Labor Day in the newspapers
I would like you to please check out a post entitled Labor Day & Our Ancestors on the Genealogy Bank website.
In this post, you can see some original adverts and articles that appeared in newspapers from the day.
It makes some interesting reading.
Labor Day Facts
I have probably answered a few of your questions relating to Labor Day. If I haven’t then you can easily ask them in the comments section below.
Here though are a few of Labor Day facts that I would like to share with you.
Why does America celebrate it on a different day?
Many countries around the world also celebrate Labor Day and pretty much for the same reason.
However, rather than celebrate this day on the first Monday of September most countries celebrate it on May 1st, (the start of spring).
The basic reason was to add a holiday in between the long gap between Independence in June and Thanksgiving in November.
Let’s not forget though that Canada also shares the same day for Labor Day on the first Monday of September as well.
Who was the founder of Labor Day?
I have already mentioned that the Central Labor Union was responsible for the creation of Labor Day.
They were first to adopt this day and organize a demonstration and picnic.
But there is still some doubt as to which person proposed this day for the workers.
It could have been Matthew Maguire who was a secretary for this union in 1882. But it has also been contested that it was Peter J. McGuire.
The meaning of Labor Day Weekend and why do we celebrate Labor Day Weekend!
As we all know by now it is the first Monday of September that has been set aside as Labor Day.
It was only natural for the American people to also include both Saturday and Sunday in this event.
And so we now also know this event ironically as Labor Day Weekend.
But do you know when we first started to call it Labor Day Weekend?
Tell me because I would like to know!
What Labor Day Activities Are There For Us To Do?
So what can you do to celebrate Labor Day and most importantly the full Labor Day Weekend?
Well, there are several activities that you can do with both your friends and family.
If you are a student then why not organize one last party before you have to go back to school. It’ll be a great way to end off a summer.
Spend time with the family!
Or you may want to spend this time with your family. And that’s great because you could soak up the last rays of the summer sun and go for a picnic.
If you do not want to go too far from home then why not have a barbecue in the backyard?
As this holiday is at the end of summer most people will take that one last vacation before they have to go back to work and the kids have to go back to school.
A popular choice around this time of year is to take one final camping trip.
You must be aware though that there will probably be congestion on both the highways and also at airports too.
Please also be advised that because it is a public holiday public transport will not usually be operating on their regular timetable.
What about the neighborhood?
Within neighborhoods, there will most likely be barbecues put on and also maybe firework displays organized as well.
And the football season!
The football season starts on Labor Day or around about this time of year.
So, why not go to the first game of the season during the Labor Day weekend?
Or if you are not a football fan then many athletic events take place during this holiday.
My Final Thoughts
As I have traced my family history I have grown to appreciate not only what my ancestor did for a living but also the conditions and the decisions that they had to make to put food on the table.
It mustn’t have been easy for them in those days.
Can you imagine working those long hours?
Would you put yourself through that just to get by?
So, Labor Day is important to me, and for you, I presume, that we pay tribute to the hard work put in by the American people.
And also to the workforce of yesteryear.
Why not research the occupation of your ancestors?
That is why I would like for you to find out about your ancestors. You could look deeper into their story and ask what affected their lives.
Ask questions such as:
- What did they do for a living?
- Did they have to move around the country to find work?
- Or did they have to migrate from a poor country to America to seek a better living?
Genealogy sites can help you to discover your ancestor’s occupation!
One great genealogy search website that I like to check out is Ancestry. You most probably have heard of this site.
Well, the reason you’ve heard of Ancestry is that they have billions of records within their databases. And I have found out so much about my ancestors through this very helpful resource.
Census records are a great way to not only discover who your ancestors were and their family, but also their occupations as well.
You can check subsequent census records to see how they moved around the country and see whether their job changed at all.
If your ancestors came from a foreign land then you can still find out about them. Ancestry also has passenger lists in its collection of records.
So, you could find out where they came from and also if they came with family as well.
If you are Canadian then you can easily check out the Census Records at Ancestry.ca.
Besides census records the Canadian version offers you a diverse range of records for you to search for your ancestors.
FindMyPast is also another great site!
I also like to visit another genealogy site by the name of FindMyPast. They too have billions of records at their disposal.
And if you cannot find what you are looking for at Ancestry then it is worth checking this website out as well.
There are also census records available which you can access for free at FindMyPast.
Let me finish off by saying …
Thank You and Please Leave A Comment
I hope you enjoyed this post explaining to you what is US Labor Day all about. If you have any questions or comments then please leave a comment below.
Please share with family and friends if you think this post will help others by using the social media buttons below.
6 thoughts on “What Is US Labor Day All About?”
Thanks for the great info. The working conditions around that time sound horrific and young children forced to work too. Sometimes we forget how lucky we are today.
My wife’s birthday is actually on Labor day so that is one date I will never forget. However, it’s the May 1st Labor day as she is originally from the Philippines 🙂
It’s interesting that the Unions started it all off. It shows how they played an important role in our working conditions. Do you think our HR dept plays a similar role to the Unions of old? A lot of countries have lost the Unions now but big companies have HR depts.
This is something that we don’t always think about and probably take for granted. Life was harsh back in the day so you have to think what did they have to go through in order to survive.
There are still unions around the world, but yes these HR departments have taken on this role. However, they not only look after the employee but also the employer and the business.
As usual, this is a really detailed and informative article. Great job.
Working 12 hours a day, 7 days a week? Sheesh. And the fact that it was so common for kids to be working like that … brutal.
Spending time with family is always a great suggestion. We’ve learned a lot over the years about what’s really important, but we’ve got a long way to go, in my view.
Keep up your great work, Owain.
I’ve tried to cover everything that this day is about, without making it boring. It really is a fascinating time in US history.
I just love learning about American history and also reflecting on what life was like for our ancestors.
Man, I did not know that some workers are children. iI is really horrible and at least, they managed to get a holiday after 9 years.
I also know that my grandfather was a worker in Romania and I know some of the difficulties which they faced before. I think we are really lucky to live in this era.
It must have been hard for them in that time. When we research our ancestors we find out their name, where and when they were born, and what they did for a living.
But we don’t think about how they lived their lives and what they had to go through to put bread on the table.
I like family history because when researching your family tree you really get to think about your ancestors.