The History of Labor Day

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Many Americans celebrate Labor Day with parades, picnics, and parties. While most Americans enjoy the first Monday in September as a day off from work, the holiday has a rich history that you may not know about.

As early as the 1880s, labor activists pushed for a federal holiday to recognize the many contributions workers have made to America’s strength, prosperity, and culture. Before it became a federal holiday, individual states recognized the holiday. Over time, a federal movement began to form and in 1894, Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September of each year a legal holiday.

USA flag with rod

The very first Labor Day holiday was celebrated on Tuesday September 5th, 1882 in New York City. By 1894, 23 more states had adopted the holiday and on June 28th, 1894 Grover Cleveland signed a law creating the federal holiday we still enjoy today. It is significant that the holiday began in the late 1800s during the height of the Industrial Revolution. As manufacturing operations increased in our country, so did American employment and labor unions leading to more advocacy for workers’ rights and safety. The idea of a “workingmen’s holiday” quickly caught on and thus Labor Day was born.

close-up photo of factory