Labor Day is the day we celebrate the process our mothers went through in order to deliver us at birth. Sorry, wrong holiday. Labor Day in the U.S. is the day we celebrate the achievements of the American labor movement. While it is still disputed whether the holiday was first proposed by Peter J. McGuire, the leader of the Brotherhood of Carpenters, or Matthew Maguire, a machinist — observances of the holiday go back over a century.
The first Labor Day celebration was September 5, 1882, in New York City and was organized by the Central Labor Union. The legislature of New York first deliberated a bill to establish a regular holiday, but Oregon was the first to pass it on February 21, 1887. It was first proposed as “a street parade to exhibit to the public the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations.”
In other countries, it’s often celebrated as International Workers’ Day on May Day.
Though Oregon was the first state to make it an official public holiday in the U.S., it became a federal holiday in 1894 at which time 30 states celebrated it. Now, all American states recognize it as a federal holiday. In the U.S. it is considered the unofficial end of summer, being a three-day weekend ahead of the school term in some parts of the country. In days of old all school began then, and football. Now, school often starts in August and football seems to run all year long, with occasional interruptions by baseball.
Work has dignity. It is not a curse. In the Biblical account, God worked 6 days in Creation and rested the 7th from his labors. Even in the Garden, man was given the work of cultivating and caring for the earth.
How will you celebrate Labor Day?
Bill Petro, your friendly neighborhood historian