History of Labor Day

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Next time you fire up the grill for the traditional “last” day of summer, think of the importance and significance of this holiday. Labor Day was created to remember the contributions of the American worker. It was originally celebrated with street parades and festivals. As more emphasis was placed upon the economic and civil significance of the holiday, speeches by prominent men and women were introduced. Today it is more often regarded as a day of rest and was declared a federal holiday in 1894. [1]

There is some debate as to who started the holiday as there are two important figures who were instrumental in creating a holiday dedicated to the American worker.

Some records show that the general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners Peter J. McGuire[2], was first in suggesting a day to honor those "who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold."

However, many believe that Matthew Maguire, a machinist, founded the holiday. Recent research seems to support that Matthew Maguire, later the secretary of Local 344 of the International Association of Machinists in Paterson, N.J., proposed the holiday in 1882 while serving as secretary of the Central Labor Union in New York. What is clear is that the Central Labor Union adopted a Labor Day proposal and appointed a committee to plan a demonstration and picnic.

The first governmental recognition for the holiday came in 1885. The first state bill to introduce state legislation to recognize the holiday was in New York in 1887, but the first state where it became a legal holiday was in Oregon that same year. Four more states – Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York created the holiday via legislative acts that same year. By the end of the 1880's, Connecticut, Nebraska, and Pennsylvania followed suit. On June 28, 1894, Congress passed an act recognizing the first Monday in September a legal holiday.[3]

While Labor day is celebrated by over 150 countries in the world, most celebrate Labor Day on May 1st. This day is also known as May Day or International Workers' Day. May 1st is a National Holiday in countries like Austria, France and Morocco and the day is celebrated with parades, labor related events, and a chance to be with family and friends.

Gift Ideas for Labor Day

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Since Labor Day is the official end of summer, some gifts can be summer related for those that just can't let the season pass. Grilling, ice cream, or anything that encapsulates the memories of summer - like a photo album. For gifts of jewelry, the peridot has been proclaimed by the fashion industry as the gemstone of summer.

Sports are big a big topic for fall, so sport watching-related gifts will help you transition into fall. Tailgating supplies, grill tools, stadium or sports themed items.

Travel is a big part of this holiday. Many families use this as the last opportunity for travel before going back to school. Travel gifts can make the trip or the destination more convenient are always welcome.

Related Guides


  1. Labor Day from Wikipedia
  2. A brief history of the celebration of Labor Day
  3. Labor Day: How it Came About; What it Means