Always the first Monday in September, Labor Day is meant as a tribute to the American worker to whom the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country is made possible.
The holiday started modestly in cities and towns, with the first celebration on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York City, held by the Central Labor Union. GIven the growth of labor organizations at this time in American history and the era of industrialization, the idea of a day to honor the American worker quickly spread to other cities and then to states.
In 1884, Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September of each year a legal holiday. The observance of Labor Day began as a street parade to exhibit to the public “the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations” of the community, followed by a relaxing day for the workers and their families.
There is some doubt as to the individual who first proposed the holiday for workers. Most believe it was the idea of Peter J. Maguire (although recent research has shown that it might have been his brother Matthew’s idea), a labor union leader who in 1882 proposed a celebration honoring the American worker. The date chosen was simply “convenient,” according to Maguire, because it was midway between the Fourth of July and Thanksgiving.
Although the day’s focus on organized labor has diminished over the years, the legal holiday still marks the end of summer and the traditional time for children to return to school.