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1894 First Federal Labor Day

The late nineteenth century was a time of labor unrest in the United States and in much of the Western world.  A holiday to honor workers had been recognized in many states.  In 1894 legislation was rushed through Congress creating a national labor day holiday on the first Monday in September.  This was a small step in separating the American labor movement from socialist and proto-Communist movements with their May Day observations.  Ironically, Cleveland signed the legislation on June 28, 1894 in the wake of the violent, on both sides, national Pullman strike which would take several lives.  A nervous Congress passed the legislation in six days, which is close to a miracle of swiftness where Congress is concerned.  The new holiday quickly became a hit, with picnic lunches and ball games featuring a farewell to Summer.  Americans have a genius for taking events that initially divided them, the Declaration of Independence, and turning them into celebrations enjoyed by all, and Labor Day, now as American as all the hot dogs and apple pie consumed during Labor Day weekend, is part of that tradition.

 

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Donald R. McClarey

Cradle Catholic. Active in the pro-life movement since 1973. Father of three and happily married for 35 years. Small town lawyer and amateur historian. Former president of the board of directors of the local crisis pregnancy center for a decade.

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