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A Brief History of 
Labor Day… 
By Jonathan Michael
The facts: 
On June 28, 1894, the U.S. Congress voted to designate the first 
Monday of September, “Labor Day,” a federal holiday. 
It is the seventh federal holiday established by Congress. 
*This is not an actual photo of the U.S. Congress from 1894. This is the 43rd U.S. Congress (20 years earlier)
The purpose of Labor Day: 
To honor and celebrate the importance of 
the American labor force and their social 
and economic contribution to the country.
“So long as the laboring man 
can feel that he holds an 
honorable as well as a useful 
place in the body politic, so 
long will he be a loyal and 
faithful citizen.” 
— Lawrence McGann 
Chairman of the House 
Committee on Labor, 1894 
This guy totally looks 
like Steve Carell
But, individual states started it first… 
Before Congress established Labor Day as a federal holiday, 23 U.S. 
states already recognized it as a legal holiday.
TRIVIA: 
Which was the first U.S. state 
to recognize Labor Day 
as a legal holiday?
New York was the first state to 
introduce a bill to officially recognize 
the holiday (Jan. 4, 1887)
BUT…
Oregon was the first state to pass 
their bill into law and legally 
recognize the holiday (Feb. 21, 1887)
We’ve always been fast… 
* 
*Eugene, OR - home of
TRIVIA: 
When was the first Labor Day?
September 5, 1882 (a Tuesday): 
The New York Central Labor Union held an all-day 
celebration that included a parade, a picnic, liberal 
consumption of beer, and overall high spirits…
5 months earlier… 
May 14, 1882: 
The recorded minutes of the New York 
Central Labor Union’s meeting report a 
proposal for a “monster labor festival.”
I like to imagine 
the proposal went 
something like this…
“Brethren, let our workingmen have 
a day unto themselves when they 
shall toil not according to their 
crafts; but instead, embark with all 
gaiety and great cheer upon the 
city streets in celebration of a 
monster labor festival… 
— Central Labor Union president, Bill Murray
“…It will be awesome, and we can 
totally get our bosses to give us 
the day off if we are so drunk, 
that our inebriated attempts at 
labor should profit nothing, but 
perchance to result, rather, in 
more harm than good.”
Hear, hear!
The day of the first parade… 
September 5, 1882 (a Tuesday): 
At 9am spectators gathered near New York City’s city 
hall in such great numbers that police feared a riot 
would break out…
By 10am, William McCabe, Grand Marshall of the 
parade had taken his place at the front of the line, 
but no one had arrived with any marching music
Shortly after 10, the Jewelers Union of Newark Two 
arrived just in time with a band. 
What were they playing? 
"When I First Put This Uniform On," from Patience, an 
opera by Gilbert and Sullivan. 
The Jewelers Union 
dishin’ out some sass.
The parade included nearly 20,000 men and women who 
marched from the city hall to Reservoir Park. 
Did you know? 
The current Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade only involves roughly 
10,000 participants.
Who “invented” Labor Day? 
McGuire vs. Maguire
The case for Peter J. McGuire 
Co-founded the American 
Federation of Labor (AFL) 
with Samuel Gompers in 1881
The case for Peter J. McGuire 
The legend: Peter McGuire 
addressed the New York 
Central Labor Union on May 
12, 1882 and called for a 
"street parade which would 
publicly show the strength 
and esprit de corps of the 
trade and labor organizations.”
The case for Peter J. McGuire 
A union journal reprinted an 
article every year crediting 
Peter J. McGuire with 
proposing the holiday, so the 
legend spread…
The case for Peter J. McGuire 
In a 1897 interview, 
Samuel Gompers (McGuire’s 
AFL co-founder) gave Peter 
J. McGuire credit for 
originating Labor Day, and 
the legend grew even 
more…
The case for Peter J. McGuire 
But McGuire wasn’t that 
great of a guy… 
- Arrested for 
embezzlement in 1901 
- Died an alcoholic in 1906
The case for Matthew Maguire 
Was a machinist in the Knights of 
Labor, a union that rivaled the 
American Federation of Labor
The case for Matthew Maguire 
Was the secretary of the Central 
Labor Union in 1882 
As secretary, Maguire coordinated 
many details of the Sept. 5 parade, 
including issuing invitations to union 
members to “review the Procession of 
the Trade and Labor Unions of New 
York and Vicinity” on August 31, 1882
The case for Matthew Maguire 
The New York City parade Grand 
Marshall, William McCabe openly 
reminisced about Matthew Maguire 
first suggesting the parade…
The case for Matthew Maguire 
“…There is no question as 
to who is the father of 
Labor Day in this country. 
Officially, as of this 
moment, insofar as the 
Department of Labor is 
concerned, it is Matt 
Maguire, machinist!” 
— W. Willard Wirtz, 
Secretary of Labor; 1968
The Truth is… 
…to this day, no one knows for sure. Both men were involved in 
the planning of the original parade, and both were prominent 
members of the labor unions in New York during that time. 
Historians still argue about it.
…but my money’s on this guy 
Matthew Maguire
American Icons of Labor 
The “Last Spike” in Promontory Summit, Utah marked the 
completion of the first Transcontinental Railroad, 1869.
American Icons of Labor 
Henry Ford’s 
assembly line in 1913
American Icons of Labor 
“Lunch atop a Skyscraper,” 1932
American Icons of Labor 
The Hoover Dam, 1934
American Icons of Labor 
The Golden Gate Bridge, 1935
American Icons of Labor 
Rosie the Riveter 
A 1942 war-time poster by J. Howard Miller. 
It was never named Rosie, but later became 
the cultural icon Americans identified as Rosie 
The official “Rosie the Riveter,” 
by Norman Rockwell, 1943
Labor Day now… 
Today, Labor Day is less about parades and is more about grilling 
burgers and having one last day off before summer ends…
For kids, it often means the looming school year 
hides in the shadows on Monday night, waiting for 
them to fall asleep…
Not everyone gets 
Labor Day off… 
It’s sad, but not everyone gets to take the 
day off. Here are just a few of the 
professions that still have to punch in 
bright and early, Monday morning…
Police Officers 
Firefighters 
Nurses & Doctors 
Retail employees 
Airline/Airport employees 
Cab Drivers 
Bus Drivers 
Many more…
What a bunch of suckers!
Labor Day is about YOU 
Remember, as a member of the American labor 
force, you hold “an honorable as well as a 
useful place in the body politic.”
Look around you. Raise your glass to the 
men and women who, like you, know how 
to get things done.
Without you, society would fall into chaos, the 
global economy would collapse, and civilization 
would usher in the Apocalypse…
…so, when you go back into work on Tuesday, 
just remember: 
! 
You’re saving the planet
All in a day’s work.
Happy Labor Day!
Your complete guide to planning! 
and running a business.
Image Sources: 
"CityHall 1911" by Flannery Family - New York City Hall Library. Via Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ 
File:CityHall_1911.JPG#mediaviewer/File:CityHall_1911.JPG 
43rd US Congress (1874) By Redington & Shaffer, landscape photographers, P.O. Box 258, Washington, D.C. [Public domain], via Wikimedia 
Commons 
"LawrenceEMcGann" by An Illustrated Congressional Manual. The United States Red Book, 1896, (detail), Collection of U.S. House of 
Representatives - Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons - http:// 
commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:LawrenceEMcGann.jpg#mediaviewer/File:LawrenceEMcGann.jpg 
"W. Willard Wirtz" by Photograph in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston - http://www.jfklibrary.org/Asset+Tree/ 
Asset+Viewers/Image+Asset+Viewer.htm?guid={648C8798-0C58-4508-A7A2-F4F6433D0BAD}&type=lgImage. Licensed under Public domain via 
Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:W._Willard_Wirtz.jpg#mediaviewer/File:W._Willard_Wirtz.jpg 
"69workmen" by Andrew J. Russell (1830-1902), photographer - National Park Service. http://www.nps.gov/gosp/index.htm. Licensed under 
Public domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:69workmen.jpg#mediaviewer/File:69workmen.jpg 
"Ford assembly line - 1913" by Unknown - http://www.gpschools.org/ci/depts/eng/k5/third/fordpic.htm. Licensed under Public domain via 
Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ford_assembly_line_-_1913.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Ford_assembly_line_-_1913.jpg 
"Lunch-atop-a-skyscraper-c1932" by Bettman Archive. Licensed under Fair use of copyrighted material in the context of Lunch atop a 
Skyscraper via Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Lunch-atop-a-skyscraper-c1932.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Lunch-atop-a-skyscraper-c1932. 
jpg 
"Damforms" by Bureau of Reclamation photographer - http://www.usbr.gov/lc/region/g5000/photolab/gallery_detail.cfm?PICIDTYPE=7260. 
Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Damforms.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Damforms.jpg 
Golden Gate Bridge Photograph by: Hiller, Charles M.; September, 1935; Contributing Institution: Marin County Free Library
Sources: 
http://www.dol.gov/laborday/history.htm 
http://www.dol.gov/laborday/history-maguire.htm 
http://www.dol.gov/laborday/history-elevator.htm 
http://www.dol.gov/laborday/history-daze.htm 
http://www.dol.gov/laborday/history-rosie.htm 
http://www.senate.gov/reference/resources/pdf/Federal_Holidays.pdf 
Labor Day Annual, 1893 http://books.google.com/books?id=8EwoAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA14&lpg=PA14&dq=when 
+did+new+york+introduce+the+labor+day+bill&source=bl&ots=u-gjQhBJVy& 
sig=xC8WYtS3csAl_Xy1UuD7mdhFVUY&hl=en&sa=X&ei=Meb_U-WbEtDaoATcsoLYBg& 
ved=0CDwQ6AEwAw#v=onepage&q=when%20did%20new%20york%20introduce%20the 
%20labor%20day%20bill&f=false

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A Brief History of Labor Day...

  • 1. A Brief History of Labor Day… By Jonathan Michael
  • 2. The facts: On June 28, 1894, the U.S. Congress voted to designate the first Monday of September, “Labor Day,” a federal holiday. It is the seventh federal holiday established by Congress. *This is not an actual photo of the U.S. Congress from 1894. This is the 43rd U.S. Congress (20 years earlier)
  • 3. The purpose of Labor Day: To honor and celebrate the importance of the American labor force and their social and economic contribution to the country.
  • 4. “So long as the laboring man can feel that he holds an honorable as well as a useful place in the body politic, so long will he be a loyal and faithful citizen.” — Lawrence McGann Chairman of the House Committee on Labor, 1894 This guy totally looks like Steve Carell
  • 5. But, individual states started it first… Before Congress established Labor Day as a federal holiday, 23 U.S. states already recognized it as a legal holiday.
  • 6. TRIVIA: Which was the first U.S. state to recognize Labor Day as a legal holiday?
  • 7. New York was the first state to introduce a bill to officially recognize the holiday (Jan. 4, 1887)
  • 8.
  • 10.
  • 11. Oregon was the first state to pass their bill into law and legally recognize the holiday (Feb. 21, 1887)
  • 12. We’ve always been fast… * *Eugene, OR - home of
  • 13. TRIVIA: When was the first Labor Day?
  • 14. September 5, 1882 (a Tuesday): The New York Central Labor Union held an all-day celebration that included a parade, a picnic, liberal consumption of beer, and overall high spirits…
  • 15. 5 months earlier… May 14, 1882: The recorded minutes of the New York Central Labor Union’s meeting report a proposal for a “monster labor festival.”
  • 16. I like to imagine the proposal went something like this…
  • 17. “Brethren, let our workingmen have a day unto themselves when they shall toil not according to their crafts; but instead, embark with all gaiety and great cheer upon the city streets in celebration of a monster labor festival… — Central Labor Union president, Bill Murray
  • 18. “…It will be awesome, and we can totally get our bosses to give us the day off if we are so drunk, that our inebriated attempts at labor should profit nothing, but perchance to result, rather, in more harm than good.”
  • 20. The day of the first parade… September 5, 1882 (a Tuesday): At 9am spectators gathered near New York City’s city hall in such great numbers that police feared a riot would break out…
  • 21. By 10am, William McCabe, Grand Marshall of the parade had taken his place at the front of the line, but no one had arrived with any marching music
  • 22. Shortly after 10, the Jewelers Union of Newark Two arrived just in time with a band. What were they playing? "When I First Put This Uniform On," from Patience, an opera by Gilbert and Sullivan. The Jewelers Union dishin’ out some sass.
  • 23. The parade included nearly 20,000 men and women who marched from the city hall to Reservoir Park. Did you know? The current Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade only involves roughly 10,000 participants.
  • 24. Who “invented” Labor Day? McGuire vs. Maguire
  • 25. The case for Peter J. McGuire Co-founded the American Federation of Labor (AFL) with Samuel Gompers in 1881
  • 26. The case for Peter J. McGuire The legend: Peter McGuire addressed the New York Central Labor Union on May 12, 1882 and called for a "street parade which would publicly show the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations.”
  • 27. The case for Peter J. McGuire A union journal reprinted an article every year crediting Peter J. McGuire with proposing the holiday, so the legend spread…
  • 28. The case for Peter J. McGuire In a 1897 interview, Samuel Gompers (McGuire’s AFL co-founder) gave Peter J. McGuire credit for originating Labor Day, and the legend grew even more…
  • 29. The case for Peter J. McGuire But McGuire wasn’t that great of a guy… - Arrested for embezzlement in 1901 - Died an alcoholic in 1906
  • 30. The case for Matthew Maguire Was a machinist in the Knights of Labor, a union that rivaled the American Federation of Labor
  • 31. The case for Matthew Maguire Was the secretary of the Central Labor Union in 1882 As secretary, Maguire coordinated many details of the Sept. 5 parade, including issuing invitations to union members to “review the Procession of the Trade and Labor Unions of New York and Vicinity” on August 31, 1882
  • 32. The case for Matthew Maguire The New York City parade Grand Marshall, William McCabe openly reminisced about Matthew Maguire first suggesting the parade…
  • 33. The case for Matthew Maguire “…There is no question as to who is the father of Labor Day in this country. Officially, as of this moment, insofar as the Department of Labor is concerned, it is Matt Maguire, machinist!” — W. Willard Wirtz, Secretary of Labor; 1968
  • 34. The Truth is… …to this day, no one knows for sure. Both men were involved in the planning of the original parade, and both were prominent members of the labor unions in New York during that time. Historians still argue about it.
  • 35. …but my money’s on this guy Matthew Maguire
  • 36. American Icons of Labor The “Last Spike” in Promontory Summit, Utah marked the completion of the first Transcontinental Railroad, 1869.
  • 37. American Icons of Labor Henry Ford’s assembly line in 1913
  • 38. American Icons of Labor “Lunch atop a Skyscraper,” 1932
  • 39. American Icons of Labor The Hoover Dam, 1934
  • 40. American Icons of Labor The Golden Gate Bridge, 1935
  • 41. American Icons of Labor Rosie the Riveter A 1942 war-time poster by J. Howard Miller. It was never named Rosie, but later became the cultural icon Americans identified as Rosie The official “Rosie the Riveter,” by Norman Rockwell, 1943
  • 42. Labor Day now… Today, Labor Day is less about parades and is more about grilling burgers and having one last day off before summer ends…
  • 43. For kids, it often means the looming school year hides in the shadows on Monday night, waiting for them to fall asleep…
  • 44. Not everyone gets Labor Day off… It’s sad, but not everyone gets to take the day off. Here are just a few of the professions that still have to punch in bright and early, Monday morning…
  • 45. Police Officers Firefighters Nurses & Doctors Retail employees Airline/Airport employees Cab Drivers Bus Drivers Many more…
  • 46. What a bunch of suckers!
  • 47. Labor Day is about YOU Remember, as a member of the American labor force, you hold “an honorable as well as a useful place in the body politic.”
  • 48. Look around you. Raise your glass to the men and women who, like you, know how to get things done.
  • 49. Without you, society would fall into chaos, the global economy would collapse, and civilization would usher in the Apocalypse…
  • 50. …so, when you go back into work on Tuesday, just remember: ! You’re saving the planet
  • 51. All in a day’s work.
  • 53. Your complete guide to planning! and running a business.
  • 54. Image Sources: "CityHall 1911" by Flannery Family - New York City Hall Library. Via Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ File:CityHall_1911.JPG#mediaviewer/File:CityHall_1911.JPG 43rd US Congress (1874) By Redington & Shaffer, landscape photographers, P.O. Box 258, Washington, D.C. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons "LawrenceEMcGann" by An Illustrated Congressional Manual. The United States Red Book, 1896, (detail), Collection of U.S. House of Representatives - Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons - http:// commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:LawrenceEMcGann.jpg#mediaviewer/File:LawrenceEMcGann.jpg "W. Willard Wirtz" by Photograph in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston - http://www.jfklibrary.org/Asset+Tree/ Asset+Viewers/Image+Asset+Viewer.htm?guid={648C8798-0C58-4508-A7A2-F4F6433D0BAD}&type=lgImage. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:W._Willard_Wirtz.jpg#mediaviewer/File:W._Willard_Wirtz.jpg "69workmen" by Andrew J. Russell (1830-1902), photographer - National Park Service. http://www.nps.gov/gosp/index.htm. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:69workmen.jpg#mediaviewer/File:69workmen.jpg "Ford assembly line - 1913" by Unknown - http://www.gpschools.org/ci/depts/eng/k5/third/fordpic.htm. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ford_assembly_line_-_1913.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Ford_assembly_line_-_1913.jpg "Lunch-atop-a-skyscraper-c1932" by Bettman Archive. Licensed under Fair use of copyrighted material in the context of Lunch atop a Skyscraper via Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Lunch-atop-a-skyscraper-c1932.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Lunch-atop-a-skyscraper-c1932. jpg "Damforms" by Bureau of Reclamation photographer - http://www.usbr.gov/lc/region/g5000/photolab/gallery_detail.cfm?PICIDTYPE=7260. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Damforms.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Damforms.jpg Golden Gate Bridge Photograph by: Hiller, Charles M.; September, 1935; Contributing Institution: Marin County Free Library
  • 55. Sources: http://www.dol.gov/laborday/history.htm http://www.dol.gov/laborday/history-maguire.htm http://www.dol.gov/laborday/history-elevator.htm http://www.dol.gov/laborday/history-daze.htm http://www.dol.gov/laborday/history-rosie.htm http://www.senate.gov/reference/resources/pdf/Federal_Holidays.pdf Labor Day Annual, 1893 http://books.google.com/books?id=8EwoAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA14&lpg=PA14&dq=when +did+new+york+introduce+the+labor+day+bill&source=bl&ots=u-gjQhBJVy& sig=xC8WYtS3csAl_Xy1UuD7mdhFVUY&hl=en&sa=X&ei=Meb_U-WbEtDaoATcsoLYBg& ved=0CDwQ6AEwAw#v=onepage&q=when%20did%20new%20york%20introduce%20the %20labor%20day%20bill&f=false