How much do you know about the origins of Labor Day? Here are ten interesting facts that just might help you out on Jeopardy or the next family Trivial Pursuit game night.
1. Labour Day originates from our neighbours to the north
Most Americans consider Labor Day a uniquely American experience, but in all reality, Labor Day has it’s origins in Canada. Stemming from 1870’s labor disputes in Toronto, in 1872 a parade was held in support of a strike against the 58 hour workweek. As a result, 24 union leaders who were responsible for organizing the event were arrested under anti-union laws.
2. First US Labor Day observance was in the form of a parade
The first US observance of Labor Day came in the form of a parade. Sponsored by the Central Labor Union, On September 5th, 1882 ten thousand workers paraded through New York City. This is commonly considered the first observance of Labor Day in America.
3. The 12 hour work day norm
What’s outrageous enough to spur ten thousand people to parade through NYC? A 12 hour workweek! In the late 19th century, the average working day consisted of 12 hours. Held on a Tuesday, the first Labor Day rally was held in order to gain support for the 8 hour workday.
4. Oregon first to declare Labor Day an official holiday
In February of 1887, the great state of Oregon was the first in the Union to pass law making Labor Day and officially recognized holiday.
5. Grover Cleveland makes Labor Day a national holiday
Making Labor Day an official national holiday as part of his political campaign, in 1894, President Grover Cleveland made good on his promise, and signed a law making Labor Day an officially recognized US holiday.
6. Not just in the US
Although Labor Day hails from Canada and the US, a large number of industrialized nations around the world celebrate Labor Day as a time to respect and reflect upon workers around the world. While not all celebrate it at the end of summer, the concept is similar, and is sometimes celebrated in combination with May Day.
7. First Waffle House opens on Labor Day
In 1955, in Avondale Estates, Georgia, the very first Waffle House opened it’s doors to the public. 25 states and 50 years later, Waffle House now counts over 1500 establishments. Yay waffles!
8. The White border
Labor Day has been traditionally the unofficial “pack up the whites” border, and was often considered a fashion faux pas, if worn post-Labor Day. This tradition has been steadily decreasing over the past decade(s), and is often now just remembered as the “something that once was.”
9. 150 million working Americans
As of 2008, there were 154.4 million people over the age of 16 in the US with jobs. Around ¾ of these workers receive paid vacation time, but an extra day off is certainly nothing to sneeze at.
10. Unofficial NFL season kickoff
99.44 percent of the time, the NFL plays its first official season game the Thursday after Labor Day.
So there we have it. Perhaps a few things you already knew about Labor Day, but hopefully a few that you didn’t. Have fun, enjoy, and remember to drink responsibly.
Image provided by The North Carolina Digital Heritage Center under a Creative Commons license