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History 101 with Henry the Butler

History 101

Labor Day

  • Labor-Day

Hello, good sirs and madams, ‘tis Henry, your most loyal butler here, at your service. I hope you’re enjoying your Labor Day weekend! You’ve probably wondered why you’re off this weekend from work or school, well it’s time that I tell you the history of how the holiday came to be!
Today, the first Monday in September, is the creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers! It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.

How did it all begin you may ask? Well, in September 1882, the unions of New York City decided to have a parade to celebrate their members being in unions, and to show support for all unions. At least 20,000 people were at the parade, and the workers had to give up a day’s pay to attend. There was also a lot of alcoholic beverages and festivities involved in the event. Word spread and other regions started having their own parades! By 1887, Oregon, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey and Colorado made Labor Day a state holiday.


There’s been a lot of controversy who gets credit for really being the founder of Labor Day. Many credit Peter J. McGuire, cofounder of the American Federation of Labor, while others have suggested that Matthew Maguire, a secretary of the Central Labor Union, first proposed the holiday. Both Matthew Maguire, a machinist, and Peter McGuire, a carpenter, have been linked to the 1882 parade. And as you can imagine, both of these men were from rival unions. Having similar sounding last names, people over the years confused them, but who would you credit?

In the late 19th century, Labor Day celebrations focused on huge parades in urban areas. Today, the holiday is a wider celebration that honors organized labor but with fewer parades, and more activities. It also marks the perceived end of the summer season. Did you know that the old tradition of wearing white after Labor Day dated back to the late Victorian era? The tradition isn’t really followed anymore, but white indicated you were still in vacation mode at your summer cottage.


As of today, the largest union is the National Education Association has about 3 million members who are members, including inactive and lifetime members!
Now, that is all the time I have for today. ‘Tis no more lecture, nor stories, go, and enjoy the beautiful day, but remember, history is always important.

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