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There’s An Interesting History To Labor Day

(Robert Couse-Baker@Flickr)

It’s the unofficial end of summer. Labor Day is a federal holiday that always falls on the first Monday of September. And for most kids, it signals back to school.

It was originally intended to celebrate various labor groups’ contributions to the United States economy. But today it’s mostly a day of rest, picnics, trips to the beach or family get-togethers.

The first Labor Day was held in 1882. It became a federal holiday in 1894. It was back during the height of the Industrial Revolution when people worked 12 hour days seven days a week. Kids as young as 6 and 7 worked alongside adults at a fraction of the pay. And conditions were dirty, unhealthy and dangerous in mills, factories and mines. They hardly got breaks.

The battle for better working conditions came to a head when a strike by workers at a company that made passenger cars paralyzed rail traffic across the country. When the government sent soldiers in to break the strike, riots broke out that claimed 12 lives. In response, Congress passed an act creating Labor Day recognizing the rights of workers.

The first Labor Days were celebrated with street parades to allow the public to appreciate the work of the trade and labor organizations. Usually after the parade there was a festival for workers and their families.

Why was the first Monday in September selected for Labor Day? The idea was to add a holiday in the long gap between Independence Day and Thanksgiving.

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