The History of Labor Day, The End of summer

We celebrate Labor Day on the first Monday in September. Labor day is a day on which we honor all American workers. The history of Labor Day, however,  goes all the way back to the late 1800s. 

What is the History of Labor Day

Imagine living in the United States, at the peak of the Industrial Revolution. This time period was a significant turning point in history because of the introduction of many new inventions! Instead of small “home-based” businesses, more and more large companies were setting up large factories for manufacturing their products. All sorts of things were now being made quickly and less expensively. These factories offered many people jobs. Families moved from their farm life in the country to the cities where these factories were located. 

These changes are important to the History of Labor Day in the US. Often everyone in the family had to work just to make ends meet. They would work 12 hour days, 7 days a week. There were little to no regulations for children going to work. This means children as young as 5 or 6 could be employed in a mine or a factory. Because they were smaller, and younger they were often paid much less than an adult. 

image shows riots during the industrial revolution time period

Everyone who was working at the time faced working conditions much different than we have today. Employees often were not given breaks. The areas in which they worked were not safe. Those in mines and some factories did not have access to clean, fresh air. 

In 1869 the first Trade Union in the United States was established. They were called the Knights of Labor. A union is designed to represent workers in many industries. They help with wages, working conditions and conflicts workers may have with members of management. Back in the 1800s, they helped organize workers to strike and protest the conditions under which they were being forced to work and the low wages they received as well. Unions play an important role in the history of Labor Day.

The first Labor Day Parade

One such strike took place on September 5, 1882. In fact, this protest is now what we call the First Labor Day Parade! 10,000 workers in New York city took time off without pay to walk from city hall to Union square. This type of walk is what is known as a march. 

After their march, people gave speeches outlining their concerns regarding the conditions in which they were required to work. The idea of having a holiday for workers in September was to provide a break between Independence Day and Thanksgiving. Both of these Holidays were established as Federal holidays in 1870. 

An important event in the history of Labor day was In 1894. President Grover Cleveland made Labor Day, the first Monday in September, a federal holiday for all workers. 

This came after many more workers held strikes and riots as they fought to bring awareness and justice to their working conditions, work hours, and wages. Sometimes, unfortunately, these events became violent and could cause injury and even death. 

What is Celebrated on Labor Day? 

Labor day is now looked at as a day we set aside to celebrate all American workers! Think about EVERYTHING we use. It takes a lot to get that product into your home. The people who make it, package it, deliver it to the store, then sell it to you… And I’m sure I’m simplifying the process. A LOT of WORK goes into running America! THAT is the essence of what should be celebrated on Labor Day. 

It is also used as a way to celebrate the end of Summer in the Northern Hemisphere. Because Labor Day is a federal holiday and many people have the day off, including school children – It’s looked upon as a way to get in one last vacation before the autumn weather. Labor Day is the perfect opportunity to spend time with your family and celebrate with each other. 

image shows different activities for Labor Day weekend: attend a parade, Set up a gift basket for delivery drivers, talk about different jobs you have had with your kids, make cards for workers in your community.

Activities for Labor Day Weekend

  • Attend a local Parade
  • Make a card for a worker in your community – the clerk at the grocery store, the mail carrier, the garbage and recycling collectors. 
  • Talk about the different jobs you have had with your child. Keep the discussion positive and how these jobs helped you become a better person and how you were able to help people in your particular line of work. 
  • Ask your child what problems they want to solve, or can solve now? What is something that you would like to change? What are some ways to make people’s lives better? This discussion can help lead them toward their passion in life. Use our FREE PRINTABLE
  • Set up a “Grab and Go” basket for delivery drivers that come to your house. Put in items they can take for their day like sports drinks, water, granola bars, nuts and even fruit. Use this FREE PRINTABLE SIGN  or have your kids create a home made one! 
Visit the Homeschool Holiday Shop to download this free Resource.
Click the image to visit the download page

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Be sure to check out the other AWESOME Holidays on the WHAT IS TODAY’S HOLIDAY page! There is even a downloadable resource for you with all available Homeschool Holiday Curriculum!

Christy, who is also known as Mrs. Crabtree designs holiday of the day activities for homes and classrooms

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