Labor Day: The History of the Holiday and Unique Ways to Celebrate

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Happy Labor Day Weekend!

Did you know that at 1,790 hours per year, Americans work the 11th most hours of all developed nations in the world? This data comes from 2012 and is according to the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development. If you’re a stats freak, you can check out the full table here.

By the way, if you want to work less, move to the Netherlands or Germany – people work less than 1,400 hours per year in each of those countries!

You know how busy life gets. It seems like one week you’re sure you’re going to finally finish that big project… and then six months later it finally happens. Labor Day presents you with the opportunity to take a bit of break and stop being so busy! But,  do you know why Labor Day is actually a holiday in the first place? No? Keep reading….

Where Does Labor Day Come From?

Interestingly, even though our nation industrialized heavily in the early 1900’s and became a leading economic powerhouse during those years; Labor Day came about in the late 1800’s.  Even before our nation became famous for our work habits and material success, we already had a proud tradition of celebrating the contributions workers make to our country.

Labor Day actually has an interesting, and controversial, origin. Some argue Matthew Maguire, a machinist, proposed the holiday while he served as secretary of New York’s Central Labor Union in 1882.  Others say Peter J. McGuire of the American Federation of Labor founded it in May of 1982.  No concrete evidence has been found to make one or the other the official founder.

Following these proposals, Oregon was the first state to pass Labor Day into law on February 21, 1887.  Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York followed suit later that year.  By 1894, a total of 31 states had made the day official through legislative acts.

Despite the obvious national support for such a holiday, the Federal government still hadn’t made Labor Day an official national holiday. But, the Pullman Strike helped light a fire under federal officials. The American Railway Union, frustrated with wage reductions and layoffs, organized a strike against the Pullman company, most other main railroad companies, and the federal government.

Eugene Debs led the strike, which at its peak involved 250,000 workers in 27 different states.  The federal government secured an injunction ordering Debs and the workers back to work, but they refused. Violence broke out nationwide, killing 30 strikers and wounding 57. President Grover Cleveland ordered 12,000 United States Army troops to restore peace across the nation.

To make a long story short, President Cleveland signed Labor Day into national law just 6 days after the strike ended in 1894.

How People Celebrate Labor Day

Whew – glad all of that is behind us! If you’re like most, you probably think of barbeques, beer, and parades on Labor Day. You are certainly welcome to celebrate however you want, but we thought it’d be interesting to take a look at some unique ways Labor Day is celebrated across the nation:

  • Minnesota State Fair – Minnesotans don’t mess around. They celebrate Labor Day with their 12-day state fair, which is attended by 1.8 million people, making it the largest 12-day event in North America.
  • Georgia – Georgians hold the Sky High Hot Air Balloon festival. This fantastic show kicks off with the Friday Night Balloon Glow and continues the entire weekend.
  • Arizona – In our very own Arizona, there’s a ton of ways to celebrate.  Highlights include the Rendezvous of the Gunfighters in Tombstone (runs from 9/1 – 9/3) and the Labor Day Rodeo in Williams (9/1-9/2).
  • Los Angeles – If it’s unique you want, it’s unique you’ll get if you’re in the LA area.  There’s the Los Angeles County Fair, Long Beach Greek Festival, the Annual Art Deco Festival on the Queen Mary, and the Queen Mary Delicious Chili and Brew Fest, among many others.

Keep It Light and Fun This Labor Day Weekend

At Eminent SEO, we like to keep things light and fun in all our daily endeavors, and we’d like you to do the same. If you’ve been working long, hard hours for a few months, give yourself permission to kick back and relax this Labor Day weekend – your body, mind and family will thank you for it!

What are your Labor Day plans?

Avatar for Jenny Stradling

Jenny Stradling

Owner and CEO at Eminent SEO in Mesa, Arizona. I started doing SEO and marketing in 2005. I'm a busy mom of four of my own and two step kids (and a grandbaby!). I owe my sanity to my partner in work and life, Chris Weatherall. I love sharing and engaging in business and marketing conversations, and I'm heavy into social media and blogging on these topics. I focus on quality, ethics, strategy, data and getting results. I work with a variety of brands and businesses with a special focus on addiction treatment marketing. I do this work because I care about making a difference.

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Avatar for Jenny Stradling

About Jenny Stradling

Owner and CEO at Eminent SEO in Mesa, Arizona. I started doing SEO and marketing in 2005. I'm a busy mom of four of my own and two step kids (and a grandbaby!). I owe my sanity to my partner in work and life, Chris Weatherall. I love sharing and engaging in business and marketing conversations, and I'm heavy into social media and blogging on these topics. I focus on quality, ethics, strategy, data and getting results. I work with a variety of brands and businesses with a special focus on addiction treatment marketing. I do this work because I care about making a difference.

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