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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

Memorial Day & Labor Day

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, September 06, 2009

Memorial Day and Labor Day are the bookends for the summer season.

 

This year, Memorial Day was the earliest day that it could be on the calendar, May 25.

 

Tomorrow, Labor Day will be the latest day that it could be on the calendar, Sept. 7.

 

The early Memorial Day fouled up school graduation days, and the ending of the school calendar.

 

The late Labor Day also fouled up school calendars, and left questions for county fairs around the state, which always plan their dates against the holiday.

 

Consumers spent less money on back-to-school supplies due to the odd configuration of both holidays, according to some economists.

 

It is too bad that the reason for so many of our holidays gets lost within the schedule for our year.

 

The first Labor Day was celebrated in the U.S. on Tuesday, Sept. 5, 1882 in New York City.

 

It was planned by the Central Labor Union, which held the second celebration exactly one year later.

 

In 1884, the holiday was shifted to the first Monday of September, as originally proposed.

 

During the rest of the 1880s, the “workingmen’s holiday” was celebrated in an increasing number of cities around the U.S.

 

The Ohio Legislature formally recognized Labor Day as a state holiday in 1890.

 

John P. Green, an African-American representative in the Ohio House, introduced the bill that established Labor Day in Ohio.

 

America in 1890 was undergoing a change from an agricultural economy to an industrial economy.

 

As the Industrial Revolution was impacting America’s economy, Americans were working 12-hour days, 7 days-a-week to make a basic living.

 

Children were commonly employed in all aspects of the economy.

 

In 1894, a strike against the Pullman Car Co. of Chicago crippled the railroad industry.

 

Congress enacted the Labor Day holiday that year, to recognize the strife and bloodshed that took place in several industries as worker’s rights were enforced.

 

Several states and cities had already enacted the Labor Day celebration prior to Congressional action.

 

Early celebrations of Labor Day usually started with a parade, to show the strength of local trade and labor organizations.

 

Festivals and celebrations would follow in the afternoon.

 

A 1904 advertisement for Labor Day festivities in Newark, Ohio promoted a “high diving dog, watermelon contest, and a parachute drop.”

 

A Band Concert and fireworks ended the day’s festivities sponsored by the Newark Trades Union and Labor Council.

 

The actual founder of the Labor Day holiday falls to two different men.

 

Peter J. McGuire, cofounder of the American Federation of Labor, suggested the holiday in 1882.

 

Matthew Maguire of Paterson, N.J. suggested the holiday the same year while serving as secretary of the Central Labor Union in New York.

 

Both were obviously contributors to the movement.

 

So, as we celebrate Labor Day this year, let us remember the reason for the holiday.