The History Of Labor Day

The history of Labor Day as a legal holiday is evidence of the methods and progress of labor in America. Labor Day was not given as a present from kindly employers or legislators. No Sir, It’s recognition was won by the strength of labor itself.

The united efforts of the workers themselves established Labor Day as a national holiday years before any state legislature of the United States enacted the custom into law.

A meeting of the New York Labor Union in 1882 that was attended by P.J. McGuire, the founder of the Brotherhood of Carpenters originated the idea. He stressed the idea of setting aside one day in the year as a general holiday for the working people. He suggested naming it “Labor Day”.

The Central Labor Union adopted the idea and organized a Labor Day parade and festival on the first Monday of September, 1882.

At the 1884 convention of the American Federation of Labor, the idea was endorsed for a national holiday. Organized labor carried on it’s demand for Labor Day so well that many towns and state legislatures made it a legal holiday.

Oregon, was the first state to make Labor Day a state holiday, the law was signed on February 21, 1887. Also, in 1887, Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York made Labor Day a state holiday. In 1889, Connecticut, Nebraska and Pennsylvania enacted Labor Day laws. In 1890, Iowa and Ohio; In 1891, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Maine, Montana, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Tennessee and Washington; In 1892, Alabama, Louisiana, Utah and Virginia; In 1893, California, Delaware, Florida, Minnesota, Rhode Island, Texas and Wisconsin.

The American Federation of Labor, called on Congress to make Labor Day a National Holiday. The Fifty-Third congress convened in 1893 several representatives introduced bills making Labor Day, a legal holiday.

The Kyle bill, being favored by the representatives and introduced by James H. Kyle of South Dakota stated:

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, That the first Monday in September in each year being the day celebrated and known as Labor’s Holiday and is hereby made a Legal Public Holiday. In the same manner as Christmas.

The Senate passed the Kyle bill on June 24, 1894, the house passed it on June 26 and President Cleveland signed it into law on June 28, 1894.

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