Ready for Labor Day weekend? I sure am! For many of the 125.5 million Americans in the workforce, Labor Day represents a day of rest, relaxation and enjoying some much deserved time off work. It also marks the unofficial end of summer, where the kids are back in school, the days get shorter, and the nights get cooler as autumn slowly rolls in.
Whether you plan on spending your Labor Day weekend barbecuing with family and friends, taking a quick trip somewhere special, or firmly planted in front of The Bradford Exchange blog reading all of my articles, keep some of these Labor Day facts in your pocket to share some interesting tidbits about how this holiday came to be.
1. The first Labor Day occurred on Tuesday, September 5, 1882
During the height of the Industrial Revolution in the late 1800s, men, women and children as young as 5 years old often worked grueling 12-hour days, 7 days a week to survive. During this time, labor unions quickly grew in popularity in an attempt to achieve better working conditions and fair pay. The Central Labor Union organized a march of approximately 10,000 workers in New York City on September 5, 1882, who took unpaid leave to participate. The march culminated with a picnic, concerts and rousing speeches to demonstrate the strength of the movement.
2. The first state to officially observe Labor Day was Oregon
On February 21, 1887, Oregon was the first legislation in the country to officially recognize the “workingman’s holiday.” That year, four more states followed suit including Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York.
3. Labor Day became a national holiday on June 28, 1894
Beginning May 11 of that year, employees of the Pullman Palace Car Company in Chicago went on strike to oppose the firing of union representatives and lowered wages. On June 26, 1894, the American Railroad Union called for a boycott of all Pullman railway cars, effectively halting railroad traffic nationwide. Under the orders of President Grover Cleveland, government troops were dispatched to Chicago to break up the strike, resulting in the death of 30 strikers, 57 wounded and $80 million in damages. In an attempt to repair ties with the American worker, an act was swiftly and unanimously passed by both houses of Congress declaring that Labor Day would be observed on the first Monday of September annually to celebrate the hardworking American.
4. A Labor Day parade takes place in New York City every year
The first proposal of the holiday outlined that parades should take place to celebrate “the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations,” followed by a festival for the enjoyment of workers and their families. While Labor Day parades are now a fairly uncommon occurrence in most metropolitan areas, a Labor Day parade is still held in New York City, just 20 blocks north of the original 1882 Labor Day march.
5. The “no white after Labor Day” rule was created around the same time as the holiday
Historians believe that this fashion rule was established in the late 1800s and early 1900s by women in high society who came from old money, as one of the many ways to differentiate themselves from the nouveau riche. If a lady happened to wear white after Labor Day, it indicated that she wasn’t “in-the-know”, therefore exposing her lack of class. Throughout the decades that followed, word got around and the rule became a mainstay in 1950s fashion magazines. Luckily, thanks to rule breakers like Coco Chanel who wore white year-round, this fashion faux pas is a thing of the past.
It was certainly a long and arduous journey to be able to enjoy the freedoms we do today, and I know I’ll take some time this Labor Day weekend to reflect on the working Americans of the past and present who have made this country as great as it is. To celebrate the spirit of America all year, make sure to visit The Bradford Exchange Online to discover a star-spangled selection of patriotic tributes and gifts. Thanks for reading and please share this post with your family and friends. I hope you have a wonderful and relaxing Labor Day weekend!5 Unique Facts About Labor Day by Beth Simon