History of Labor Day

Illustration of the first American Labor Day parade on September 5, 1882, in New York City.

Although this holiday has long passed, it is always enjoyable to learn about the origins of one. So without further ado, let’s get into the history of Labor Day.

As most Americans know, Labor Day is celebrated every September 6th, and it honors the contributions of hard-working blue-collar Americans. During the Industrial Revolution, workers in the U.S. were usually poor, worked in unsafe conditions, and were often even children below the age of 10. During the 19th century, workers grew increasingly frustrated by their conditions, and various rallies, strikes, and protests often occurred.

Thanks to this, workers were eventually able to gain the respect they deserved. But on September 5, 1882, the first Labor Day parade in U.S. history was held as over 10,000 workers went to the streets of New York. While many state legislatures did recognize the holiday, it would not become a national holiday until 12 years later. This was again caused by the mass unrest of those subject to harsh working conditions. It wouldn’t be until June 28, 1894, when President Grover Cleveland would sign the holiday into law. The true creator of Labor Day remains unknown, however, some do suspect that Peter J. McGuire—who was cofounder of the American Federation of Labor—was the first to propose the idea.

Nowadays families gather across the United States in hosting barbecues, conducting parades, and the usual fireworks displays. For most, the holiday signifies the end of summer and start of the back-to-school season. In the end, workers in America will forever appreciate the early efforts of change to make their jobs easier and safer.

— Maya Ross