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The First Monday of September

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Guest blogger today is business reference librarian Ellen Terrell

Labor Day parade, Main St., Buffalo, N.Y. (ca1910)

Many Americans may think Labor Day as the end of summer or a day of rest, parades, picnics, or store sales. Labor Day is so much more.

The first Labor Day holiday was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882 at the behest of the Central Labor Union. The Central Labor Union pushed other organizations to follow and by 1894 23 other states had adopted the holiday.* In 1894 Eugene V. Debs led members of the American Railway Union on strike in what is known as the Pullman strike.  This strike had major economic implications and soon President Grover Cleveland declared it a federal crime and deployed troops to break it up. Violence erupted, and two men were killed. As a way to calm tensions after the death strike, on June 28, 1894 Labor Day as a legal holiday on the first Monday of September was approved. **

Statutes at Large June 28, 1894: Making Labor Day a Legal Holiday

There are a number of books on Labor Day and the history of labor in the United States while the Library’s Manuscript Reading Room has President Cleveland’s papers. Also, the National Archives has a nice online photographic exhibit called The Way We Worked that documents the clothing, locales, conditions, and conflict in our workplaces.

* United States Department of Labor: History of Labor Day

**PBS: Origins of Labor Day

Comments (5)

  1. Hurrah for Labor and Labor Day.

    May they both last into eternity.

  2. Yay Labor day

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