Posts Tagged ‘Labor Day’

Empty Chair Day

September 3, 2012

Karl Marx and the Empty Chair

Image from iOwnTheWorld

The Dignity of Labor – The Day and the Times

September 3, 2012

Anaconda Standard (Anaconda, Montana) Sep 4, 1910


Never in the history of this holiday has it come in a time so distracted and torn with industrial trouble. Labor day this year finds strikes in every part of the country, with greater upheavals brewing and vastly worse conditions threatened. It is an evil ferment. The world has just emerged from the greatest and most destructive war of all time and of everything the world today stands in need there is not enough. The costs of living here and everywhere are as a consequence at unprecedented levels. Every interference with production, every trammel upon distribution, every obstruction to commerce can have no effect but to give fresh impulse to the ascent of prices.

In this country a widespread strike in the steel and iron industry threatens to inflict practically all industry save agriculture with a paralysis from which everybody will suffer. Farther in the foreground looms the dire possibilities of a general railway strike that once launched can spell but calamity for every interest and every person. No living head in the land can wholly escape some touch of that blight. A fortnight’s tie-up of transportation will see the county stricken to idleness, hunger stalking through  the land and disorder fomenting on every side. This is no picture conjured by idle fancy. The railroads must keep things moving or there can be neither work nor wages, neither food nor fuel, and starving, freezing millions will create a ferment out of which anarchy will not be slow to rise hideously. There can be no temporizing with the question of transportation or no transportation.

Everybody suffers from abnormal conditions. Labor — meaning, that is, the unions — is suffering no more than other classes and varieties of humans who earn what they must have to live and much less than most of them. Striking to advance wages or to impose conditions simply serves to make evil conditions more acute. The need is to find the way to make the cost of living more tolerable and the means by which alone that can be done is to increase production of everything whereof there is a shortage in the world. Drives against profiteers and profiteering may here and there effect some relief, but it will be neither general nor great in degree. There can be no thorough relief in which everybody may share until something like normal conditions are restored and nothing will contribute so much to that consummation as that everybody shall remain at work, do his best and permit on every hand that the best be done.

It is a time for all labor everywhere — organized and unorganized, manual toilers and brain workers, every sort upon whose effort depends in some measure the moving of the essential affairs of the world — to keep a clear head, a stout heart and a spirit of readiness to work together and steadfastly until it has at length worked out the problem of the times. Bolshevism, socialism or any ism, cult or lunacy will not overcome the world’s shortage of necessaries. Only work can do that and the more there are who will stick to the job of producing the sooner will shortage be overcome and conditions reduced to normal. Wild-eyed radicalism will not add a peck of grain nor a pound of beef to the world’s short store. The steadfast industry of all everywhere who are able to produce something needed can pull this old world out of the hole and by no force other can it be done.

Fort Wayne Sentinel (Fort Wayne, Indiana) Sep 1, 1919

Labor Talk: Roosevelt Warns Against Despotism, Envy and Mob Violence

September 2, 2012


Warns His Hearers Against Despotism, Envy and Mob Violence.

A community of interest, with caste forgotten and personal worth the sole basis of class distinction, with capitalist and wage worker helping themselves by aiding each other and both content to abide by the laws, was the doctrine preached at Syracuse Monday by President Roosevelt as the prime requisite for a prosperous and permanent national life.

As a labor day creed, its acceptance was urged by a warning against a tendency toward despotism, the envy of demagogues and their bent toward mob violence being classed as a danger to the laborer far more malign than the arrogance of the affluent.

“We must act upon the motto of all for each and each for all,” was the keynote of the address, which denounced the leaders who incite class antagonism, whether the labor agitator who shouts for plunder or the unscrupulous man of wealth who seeks to subvert the laws in order to oppress.

“We must see that each man is given a square deal, because he is entitled to no more and should receive no less,” ran the final aphorism with which President Roosevelt drove home his plea for the abolition of industrial castes.

The prosperity of the farmer and the wage worker is the index of the nation’s welfare, argued the President, and the interests of every business, trade and profession are so identical that they “tend to go up or down together.” To maintain a healthy government individuals instead of classes must be considered, and the permanency of a spirit that will conserve the rights of others as well as defend one’s own.

In the decline of defunct republics of the medieval age the President traced examples of the pernicious effect of class legislation, and gave point to his warning against demagogy by the conclusion that the result was equally fatal no matter whether the mob or the oligarchy conquered.

To unite the contending classes, the President urged that the wage worker should display sanity and a desire to do justice to others and that the capitalist should welcome and aid all legislative efforts to settle present difficulties. The currency system was cited as an example of legislation that is good because not classlike.

With his argument for the abolition of classes ended, the President launched into a characteristic eulogy of the benefits of hard work, which he styled the “best prize life has to offer.” The idler was dismissed with the quotation, “After all the  saddest thing that can happen to a man is to carry no burdens.” Breadwinners and homemakers, fathers and mothers of families, were given their tribute, the President declaring that there is a place for each among the honored benefactors of the nation.

Following are paragraphs from the President’s Labor Day address:

There is no worse enemy to the wage worker than the man who condones mob violence in any form or who preaches class hatred.

If alive to their true interests, rich and poor alike will set their faces like flint against the spirit which seeks personal advantage by overriding the laws, without regard to whether the spirit shows itself in the form of bodily violence by one set of men, or in the form of vulpine cunning by another set of men.

The outcome was equally fatal whether the country fell into the hands of a wealthy oligarchy, which exploited the poor, or whether it fell under the domination of a turbulent mob which plundered the rich.

In the long run, we all of us tend to go up or down together. It is all-essential to the continuance of our healthy national life that we should recognize this community of interest among our people.

We must keep ever in mind that a republic such as ours can exist only in virtue of the orderly liberty which comes through the equal domination of the law over all men alike and through its administration in such resolute and fearless fashion as shall teach all that no man is above it and no man below it.

Cedar Fall Gazette (Cedar Falls, Iowa) Sep 15, 1903

Labor and the Laboring Man

September 5, 2011



Ho, ye who at the anvil toil,
And strike the sounding blow,
Where from the burning iron’s breast,
The sparks fly to and fro,
While answering to the hammer’s ring,
And fire’s intenser glow–
Oh, while ye feel ’tis hard to toil
And sweat the long day through,
Remember, it is harder still
To have no work to do.

Ho, ye who till the stubborn soil,
Whose hard hands guide the plough,
Who bend beneath the summer sun,
With burning cheek and brow–
Ye deem the curse still clings to earth
From olden time till now;
But, while ye feel ’tis hard to toil
And labor all day through,
Remember, it is harder still
To have no work to do.

Ho, ye who plow the sea’s blue field —
Who ride the restless wave,
Beneath whose gallant vessel’s keel
There lies a yawning grave,
Around whose bark the wintry wind,
Like fiends of fury rave —
Oh, while ye feel ’tis hard to toil
And labor long hours through,
Remember, it is harder still
To have no work to do.

Ho, ye upon whose fevered cheeks
The hectic glow is bright,
Whose mental toil wears out the day
And half the weary night,
Who labor for the souls of men,
Champions of truth and right —
Although ye feel your toil is hard,
Even with this glorious view,
Remember, it is harder still
To have no work to do.

Ho, all who labor –all who strive,
Ye wield a lofty power;
Do with your might, do with your strength,
Fill every golden hour;
The glorious privilege TO DO
Is man’s most noble power.
Oh, to your birthright and yourselves,
To your own souls be true!
A weary, wretched life is theirs,
Who have no work to do.

Janesville Gazette (Janesville, Wisconsin) Oct 4, 1845

Image from the North Dakota State University Library website

From the New-York Evening Post.


I walked beyond the city’s bounds,
Along an unfrequented way —
The small, uncultivated grounds
Of poverty, before me lay,
A fence of turf the spot surrounds,
The poor lone cabin was of clay.

‘Twas sunset, and its parting light,
With golden lustre, bathed the west,
But seemed to linger in its flight,
To cheer the summer day to rest;
To gladden labor’s weary sight,
Like hope within a darkened breast.

It melted till the twilight crept
With gentle step to kiss the scene,
And the soft breath of evening swept
Its incense thro’ the foliage green.
The bird had ceased its note, and slept,
And all was silent and serene.

A form within the cabin door,
In  poor and simple garb arrayed,
With face of care, deep furrowed o’er,
Look’d out upon the gath’ring shade,
“He never lingered thus before,”
She sighed, and bitter grief displayed.

A moment more, that face o’ercast,
Grew radiant with joy’s brighter ray,
The cloud had gathered — burst — and passed,
For he, her only hope and stay,
Came hurrying to his house at last,
Far down the solitary way.

He came, the man of toil and care,
With brow o’ershadowed by distress —
And met, with sad, dejected air,
The wife’s affectionate caress!
His heart seemed full! What storm was there
To cause him so much wretchedness?

A word sufficed to tell the tale;
A ship, from foreign lands away,
Had yielded to the swelling sail,
And now was anchored in the bay.
The eye was moist, the cheek was pale
That listened to the laborer’s lay.

“Oh! I am broken-hearted, and my tongue
Refuses utterance of what I know;
My brain is maddened, and, my spirit wrung,
While sinks my form beneath this dreadful blow.
Bear with me, faithful one, while I impart
The heavy sorrows of my troubled heart.

“On that far isle, where our young days were passed,
A bolt has fallen from God’s mighty hand!
Upon the forms of men disease is cast,
And blight and desolation sear the land;
On every side the waitings of despair
Rise from the lips of those who loved us there.

“Dost thou remember where the silver stream
Leaps in its wild career the vale along,
Where oft we’ve lingered in our summer dream,
And filled the air with hope’s expectant song.
In every cottage on the old hill’s side
Some of our well-beloved friends have died.

“Oh! I can see the pale and haggard face
Of her whose last farewell is ne’er forgot.
Who when she held me in her last embrace
Invoked a blessing on the laborer’s lot.
How little dreamed she when those tear drops fell,
That she would starve, and I ‘midst plenty dwell.

“To-day these dreadful tidings met mine ears.
And quick I turned my weekly earning o’er;
Tis gone, midst choking prayers and burning tears:
And Oh! I would to God it had been more.
Tis gone — and in the thought I find relief;
It checks the swelling torrents of my grief.”

The laborer ceased; his tale was o’er,
His heart unburdened of its care,
And passing in his humble door,
He bent his weary form in prayer.
The anguish that his features wore
Was passed, and hope sat smiling there.

God bless the laboring man ; –” thy bread
Is on the far-off waters cast,”
And He who came to save hath said,
“It shall return to thee at last.”
The rich shall find no softer bed,
Or happier memory in the past.

The future, it is full of flowers
To Christian hearts, so pure as thine —
And may the knowledge of these hours
Shed such a blessing upon mine,
That I may seek those joyous bowers.
Where spirits like to thee incline.

Janesville Gazette (Janesville, Wisconsin) Aug 7, 1847

The Daily Record (Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania) Aug 30, 1954

Laboring Poetry

September 7, 2009

Poetry for Labor Day:

Image from Life Magazine

Song of the Factory Girl.


Oh sing me the song of the Factory Girl!
So merry and glad and free!
The bloom on her cheeks, of health how it speaks,
Oh a happy creature is she!
She tends the loom, she watches the spindle,
And cheerfully toileth away —
Mid the din of wheels, how her bright eyes kindle,
And her bosom is ever gay!

Oh sing me the song of the Factory Girl!
Who hath breathed our mountain air,
She toils for her home and the joys to come
To the loved ones gathered there!
She tends the loom, she watches the spindle,
And she fancies her mother near —
How glows her heart, and her bright eyes kindle
As she thinks of her sister dear.

Oh sing me the song of the Factory Girl!
Who no titled lord doth own,
Who with treasures more rare, is more free from care,
Than a Queen upon her throne!
She tends the loom, she watches the spindle,
And she parts her glossy hair,
I know by her smile, as her bright eyes kindle,
That a cheerful spirit is there!

Oh sing me the song of the Factory Girl!
Whose task is easy and light —
She toileth away till the evening gray,
And her sleep is sweet and light —
She tends the loom, she watches the spindle,
And, oh, she is honest and free —
I know by her laugh, as her bright eyes kindle,
That few are more happy than she!

Oh sing me the song of the Factory Girl!
As she walks her spacious hall,
And trims the rose and the orange that blows,
In the window, scenting all.
She tends the loom and watches the spindle,
And she skips in the bracing air —
I know by her eyes, as their bright lights kindle,
That a queenly heart is there!

Oh sing me the song of the Factory Girl!
Link not her name with the SLAVE’S;
She is brave and free, as the old elm tree
Which over her  homestead waves.
She tends the loom, she watches the spindle,
And scorns the laugh and the sneer,
I know by her lip, as her bright eyes kindle,
That a FREE-BORN spirit is here!

Oh sing me the song of the Factory Girl!
Whose fabric doth clothe the world,
From the king and his peers to the jolly tars
With our flag o’er all seas unfurl’d,
From China’s gold seas, to the tainted breeze
Which sweeps the smokened rooms
Where “God save the Queen,” to cry are seen,
The slaves of the British looms.

Oh sing me the song of the Factory Girl!
The honest and fair and true —
Whose name has rung, whose deeds been sung,
O’er the land and waters blue.
She tends the loom, and watches the spindle,
And her words are cheerful and gay —
Oh, give me her smile, as her bright eyes kindle,
And she toils and sings away!

God bless our Yankee Factory Girls!
The girls of our mountain wild!
Like a merry hind, shall their song be heard,
Where’er sweet Labor has smiled.
From our forests green, where the axe hath been,
And the waters dance in the sun —
Through New England’s clime, to the thunder chime
Of the surging Oregon! —

[Asylum Gazette.]

Huron Reflector (Norwalk, Ohio) Jun 2, 1846

Image from



Under a spreading chesnut tree
The village smithy stands;
The smith, a mighty man is he,
With large and sinewy hands;
And the muscles of his brawny arms
Are strong as iron bands.

His hair is crisp, and black and long;
His face is like the tan;
His brow is wet with honest sweat;
He earns whate’er he can,
And looks the whole world in the face,
For he owes not any man.

Week in, week out, from morn till night
You can hear his bellows blow;
You can hear him swing his heavy sledge
With measured beat and slow,
Like a sexton ringing the village bell,
When the evening sun is low.

And children coming home from school
Look in at the open door;
They love to see the flaming forge,
And hear the bellows roar,
And catch the burning sparks that fly
Like chaff from a threshing floor.

He goes on Sunday to the church,
And sets among his boys;
He hears the parson pray and preach,
He hears his daughter’s voice,
Singing in the village choir,
And it makes his heart rejoice.

It sounds to him like his Mother’s voice,
Singing in Paradise!
He needs must thinks of her once more,
How in the grave she lies;
And with his hard rough hand he wipes
A tear from out his eyes.

Toiling — rejoicing — sorrowing —
Onward through life he goes;
Each morning sees some task begin,
Each evening sees it close;
Something attempted — something done —
Has earned a night’s repose.

Thanks, thanks to thee, my worthy friend,
For the lesson thou hast taught;
Thus at the flaming forge of Life
Our fortunes must be wrought;
Thus on its sounding anvil shaped
Each burning Deed and Thought.

Republican Compiler (Gettysburg, Pennsylvania) Jun 21, 1847

A "Begrimed" Engineer

Image and Cobeen family history can be found HERE.


Ah! who ever thinks of the bold engineer,
As he stands by his throttle of steel,
And spurs on his steed to its maddened career,
In its thundering and ponderous reel,
Like a soldier begrimed in battle’s dark strife,
And brave to the cannon’s hot breath.
He, too, plunges on with his long train of life,
Unmindful of danger or death!
Through the daylight,
Into the night,
Dark, dark.
He knows no affright,
O’er ridges
And bridges,
Decayed or strong,
Like a mystic God he rushed along!
Who thinks of the bold engineer?

So true to his post like a statue he stands,
With his eyes fixed fast on afar;
Our own precious lives he holds in his hands,
Our wealth we give to his care;
For good must he be, the bold engineer,
As he dashes from village to town,
And brings us all safe, ‘midst a smile or a tear,
To the forms so dearly our own!
Onward he goes,
His whistle he blows —
Deep, deep,
Through hight-drifted snows;
With crossings
And tossings,
In heat and in rain,
O’er the glitterings track he pulls the long train!
All hail to the bold engineer.

I love the brave man, though accidents come,
With their heart-rending anguish and woe;
Still foremost he rides, to whatever doom,
Like the form on a vessel’s bold prow.
And as he sweeps on like the wind through the land,
Away from “sweet home” and its charm,
For the sake of the “loved ones” and wife, may Thy hand,
Oh God, protect him from harm!
On doth he ride,
No dangers betide,
Swift, swift!
With bridesgroom and bride —
The tallest,
The smallest,
The rich and the poor,
All follow his path, o’er river and moor —
Long life to the bold engineer!

The Fitchburg Sentinel (Fitchburg, Mass.) Aug 13, 1870Image from /sitehistory.html

From the American Farmer


Of all pursuits by men invented,
The ploughman is the best contented,
His calling’s good, his profits high,
And on his labors all rely –Mechanics all by him are fed,
Of him the merchants seek their bread;
His hands give meat to every thing,
Up from the beggar to the king.The milk and honey, corn and wheat,
Are by his labors made complete.
Our clothes from him must first arise,
To deck the fop or dress the wise –We then by vote may justly state,
The ploughman ranks among the great;
More independent than them all,
That dwell upon this earthly ball.

All hail, ye farmers, young and old!
Push on your plough with courage bold;
Your wealth arises from your clod,
Your independence from your God.If then the plough supports the nation,
And men of rank in every station,
Let kings to farmers make a bow,
And every man procure a plough.

Republican Compiler (Gettysburg, Pennsylvania) Aug 17, 1825Image from


Amid the flames he stood,
And the white smoke formed his wreath,
And the swelling waves of the fiery flood
Came surging from beneath.

The crackling timbers reeled,
And the brands came gleaming down,
Like the scattered wealth that the forest yields
When their autumn leaves are brown.

The tempest howled in wrath,
And the fire wheeled madly on, —
And the embers far on the wind’s wild path,
Through the murky night, had gone.

Yet there, in his pride, he stood,
With a steady hand and strong;
And his axe came down on the burning wood,
Till the heart of the old oak rung.

There was many an earnest eye
Through the rolling smoke that gazed,
While he stood with his dauntless soul & high,
Where the hottest fire-brands blazed.

And prayers were faltered forth
From the aged and the young,
For the safety of many a household hearth
On the strokes of his strong arm hung.

There was many a proud knight there,
With his mantle round him rolled,
That aloof, in the light of that sweeping fire,
Stood shivering in the cold.

And oft, from the fireman’s bands,
A summons for aid was heard;
But never the tips of their well-gloved hands
From their ermined cloaks were stirred.

And no white and fervent lip
For their welfare or safety prayed;
For no children’s weal and mother’s hope
In the strength of their arms was stayed.

Were I searching earth’s mingled throng
For shelter, my claim would be
A hand, like that FIREMAN’s, nerved & strong,
And a fearless heart for me.

Ohio Repository, The (Canton, Ohio) May 8, 1845Image from


From the Knickerbocker.

Song of Labor: The Miner.


The eastern sky is blushing red,
The distant hill-top glowing;
The brook is murmuring in its bed,
In idle frolics flowing;
‘Tis time the pickaxe and the spade
And iron “tom” were ringing;
And with ourselves, the mountain stream
A song of labor singing.

The mountain air is cool and fresh;
Unclouded skies been o’er us;
Broad placers, rich in hidden gold,
Lie temptingly before us
Then lightly ply the pick and spade
With sinews strong and lusty;
A golden “pile” is quickly made,
Wherever claims are “dusty.

“We ask no magic Midas’ wand,
Nor wizard-rod divining;
The pickaxe, spade and brawny hand
Are sorcerers in mining;
We toil for hard and yellow gold,
No bogus bank notes taking;
The bank, we trust, though growing old,
Will better pay by breaking.

There is no manlier life than ours,
A life amid the mountains,
Where from the hillsides, rich in gold,
Are willing sparkling fountains:
A mighty army of the hills,
Like some strong giant labors
To gather spoil by earnest toil,
And not by robbing neighbors!

When labor closes with the day,
To simple fare returning,
We gather in a merry group
Around the camp-fires burning;
The mountains sod our couch at night,
The stars shine bright above us;
We think of home, and fall asleep
To dream of those who love us.

Mountain Democrat, The (Placerville, California) May 13, 1854

Labor Day: The Work of the Labor Unions

September 6, 2009
Warren Tribune, PA 1927
Warren Tribune, PA 1927

National Labor Day.

In 1883 Mr. P.J. McGuire of New York, originated the idea of an annual celebration in all the Union by members of the various trades and labor organizations. Further, the time to be fixed for this should be the first Monday in September. Mrssrs. P.J. McGuire, Samuel Gompers and Robert Blissert were the principal framers of the plan adopted, and these gentlemen, prominent workers in the labor cause, first gave it publicity.

The day was to be a grand holiday, like the Fourth of July or Christmas. It was to be celebrated by music, festivals, speaking and great processions of the labor organizations. The parades were to be a leading feature. Members of all the industrial trades, formed in battalions and divisions, were to march through the streets, with music playing and banners flying. Upon the banners were to be inscribed terse words, showing the mottoes and aims of the great labor unions. Among such were the following:

“Compulsory Education,” “No Child Labor,” “Sanitary Inspection of Factories,” “Eight Hours a Day.”

The idea caught the public favor at once. That first year and every year since Labor day has been celebrated. It grows in favor, and its observance becomes annually more imposing. No more instructive or interesting sight is witnessed than these long battalions of faithful workers. Some of the bands are white faced and stooped from long hours of bending over indoor tasks. Others are ruddy and strong and erect. Far too many, as they march, show the cramping, stiffening effect of years of toil on their muscles.

Labor day is now a legal holiday in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, Colorado, California and sever other states. It should be set apart in all the states as the day belonging to those who make the nation’s wealth.

The News (Frederick, Maryland) Aug 27, 1889

Image from

One of the mottos borne in the Labor Day parade in Chicago read:

“eight hours’ work, eight hours’ pay, eight hours’ sleep and eight dollars a day.”

When these conditions come to pass the millenium will not be far off.

Edwardsville Intelligencer (Edwardsville, Illinois) Sep 14, 1892

LABOR Day pic 1941


The first of September is a very fitting time for the “Labor Day” observance. It is the beginning of the harvest season when the fruits of the earth are gathered into barns, and the reward of the year’s husbandry is paid to agricultural toil, from of old and ever to be the only essential provider for human want.

And it is well to observe “Labor Day” with gratitude and jubilation, as it was well for this nation to observe Fourth of July. But, as Fourth of July was devoted to a consideration of the causes and the obligations of American independence, so it were well for “Labor Day” to consider how it was and by what means its present advantageous estate has come to be.

It has taken much time to bring round this festivity of labor. Reckoning from the birth of Christ at Bethlehem in Judea, nearly nineteen hundred years have labored to bring it forth. And but for the transforming power of those years of ministry, but for that birth in the manger and that death on the cross, not nineteen centuries, but much more extended and weary travail would have awaited human labor, before, in this land and in this time, it could have had any such anniversary as it now observes. Outside of all theology and creeds, as the most certain fact in history, the beginning of the amelioration of labor starts from the person and the message of the Son of Man. Of all mankind, those who have been bowed down and heavy laden should most revere and cherish that benignant goodness and wisdom.

But it has not been wholly the institutions directly connected with christianity, from which the amelioration of labor had come. That liberation and development of the human mind which christianity has caused has contributed in these later centuries more visibly than the church. For, left to its own resources, there is nothing in the mere numbers of human labor that would have brought it to what of advantage it now enjoys. It is because the constantly increasing intelligence of mankind in the end benefits labor, that its past has been progressive and its future is bright with hope.

Despite christianity, it was not until the use of gunpowder in warfare that the toiling masses of Europe had any fair chance of freedom. The warrior aristocracies in their suits of ma??, and trained to arms as a jealously exclusive profession, could never have been thrust from their place of power by the multitudes whose labor they exacted and whose gains they lavished. Gunpowder was the first great equalizer of persons, and modern democracy begins with its use in war.

*emphasis mine

But gunpowder could not undo all the past. It had been in use several hundred years before the Reign of Terror in France, and labor had its heaviest burdens still to bear. For that outburst of tumult and revenge was but the recoil of outraged and overburned human toil, forced upon one-third of the soil of France, and under most oppressive restrictions, to support in idleness and waste the Nobles and the Clergy, who monopolized all privileges and occupied two-thirds of the land.

Clearly invention and intelligence alone could not deliver labor from the pit into which it had fallen, or rather had been forced. Besides aid, it needed opportunity, and this it could not find in Europe where aristocracy and privilege were organized and intrenched. This opportunity the United States has furnished to a greater degree than the world has thus far known.

But here also the conflict of rival principles had to be fought out. In the Mayflower came republican institutions based upon free and respected labor, and at Jamestown, in Virginia, was begun the toil of slaves. Our civil war grew out of these two facts, and was fought for the cause of labor. In that war the Mayflower and the Pilgrims triumphed, and labor has the benefit of the blood and the treasure that were spent.

If anywhere in this world among human institutions and the places connected with their birth, the reverence and gratitude of laboring men should go out toward Plymouth Rock, and the principles of government and social order which the founders of Massachusetts first planted on this soil. If any state should have the loyalty of its laboring men, Massachusetts should. If any citizenship should feed constantly from the fount of early purpose and aspiration, her citizenship should. And, of all her citizens, those who celebrate “Labor Day” should most reverently do this, for under her leadership and influence has come to them most of what that anniversary stands for.

North Adams Transcript (North Adams, Massachusetts) Sep 2, 1895

P.J. McGuire - 1896
P.J. McGuire – 1896




WASHINGTON, D.C., Sept. 4. — Samuel Gompers, founder and president of the American Federation of Labor, gave out for publication today some interesting historical matter on the observation of Labor Day.

“Undoubtedly the first suggestion of setting apart a day in each year to be observed as Labor Day,” said Mr. Gompers, “was conceived by the late P.J. McGuire, who was at that time secretary of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters. The suggestion occurred during the period when the Knights of Labor was in existence, P.J. McGuire being a member of that organization.

“Writing for the American Federationist in 1902 P.J. McGuire had this to say:

“‘Pagan feast and Christian observance have come down to us through the long ages. But it was reserved for this country, and for the American people, to give birth to Labor Day. In this they honor the toilers of the earth, and pay homage to those who from rude nature have delved and carved all the comfort and grandeur we behold.

“‘More than all, the thought, the conception, yes, the very inspiration of this holiday came from men in the ranks of the working people, men active in uplifting their fellows and leading them to better conditions. It came from a little group in New York City, the Central Labor Union, which had just been formed, and which in later years attained widespread influence.

“‘On May 8, 1882, the writer made the proposition. He urged the propriety of setting aside one day in the year to be designated as ‘Labor Day,’ and to be established as a general holiday for the laboring classes. He advised the day should first be celebrated by a street parade, which would publicly show the strength and esprit du corps of the trade and labor organizations. Next the parade should be followed by a picnic of a festival in some grove the proceeds of the same to be divided on this semi-co-operative plan.”

“It was further argued Labor Day should be observed as one festal day in the year for public tribute to the genius of the American industry. There were other worthy holidays representative of the religions, civil and military spirit. But non representative of the industrial spirit, the great vital force of every nation.

He suggested the first Monday in September of every year for such a holiday, as it would come at the most pleasant season of the year nearly midway between the fourth of July and Thanksgiving and would fill a wide gap in the chronology of legal holidays. Many were the cogent reasons he advanced and at once the idea was enthusiastically embraced.

The first Labor Day parade and festival of the Central Labor Union of New York City on September 5, 1882, was simply an imposing success. From that day on, it became a fixed institution in the United States observed today in every city of the land. The plan was next endorsed by the annual convention of the American Federation of Labor and the general assembly of the Knights of Labor. IT spread rapidly from city to city and from town to town. City councils and state legislatures took it up and made it a legal holiday, until finally, June 28, 1894, it became a national holiday by act of congress.

“The initial action taken setting apart one day in the year on which to review the activities and beneficial influence of Organized Labor occurred at the afternoon meeting of the third day of the fourth annual session of the Federation, October 9, 1884, the convention being held in Schloesser’s Hall, Chicago, Ill. The resolution creating Labor Day was introduced in the convention by A.C. Cameron, a delegate from the Chicago Trades and Labor Assembly, and was as follows:

“‘Resolved, that the first Monday in September of each year be set apart as a laborers’ national holiday, and that we recommend its observance by all wage-workers, irrespective of sex, calling, or nationality.’***”

Eau Claire Leader (Eau Claire, Wisconsin) Sep 5, 1915

Decatur Weekly Republican  29 Oct 1896
Decatur Weekly Republican 29 Oct 1896


The first Labor Day was instituted in 1887, when the New York legislature passed an act recognizing that occasion as a holiday. But the movement for this occasion may fairly celebrate its semi-centennial this year, since it was in 1882 that Matthew Maguire, secretary of the Central Labor union of New York, began correspondence with various labor unions, in the effort to secure such a public occasion.

The original idea of the movement was to establish a public occasion which should dignify labor, call attention to the needs and rights of wage-earners, strengthen their organizations, and encourage them in their struggle for better conditions.

Since that time enormous progress has been made by the workers. Hours of labor, which were inordinately long, have been greatly reduced. Working conditions have been made healthier and pleasanter. Women and children are protected from the more severe demands of toil. Wages average three to four times as much as was ordinarily paid 50 years ago. The wage-earners of the country enjoy many benefits that the workers of 50 years ago never dreamed of.

The Frederick Post (Frederick, Maryland) Sep 3, 1932



First Labor Day Parade Was Held Sept. 5, 1882

The first celebration of Labor day in America was on Sept 5, 1882, when a parade was held in New York under the auspices of the newly organized Central Labor union of the metropolis. P.J. McGuire first made the suggestion of a parade of organized labor. William McCabe, who was chosen to lead the procession as grand marshal, had only a small company of men behind him when the parade started from City Hall; and they came in for much jeering from the crowd. At Astor Place a number of organizations joined the marchers, and when the parade passed in review at Union Square there were 2,500 men in line. William McCabe, the leader of this pioneer parade of organized toilers, was a printer by trade, and a native of New Zealand. Coming to America in 1840, when two years old, his parents settled in California. At the age of fifteen he enlisted in a cavalry troop which served in the civil war. Later he fought the Indians in the northwest, and then received a commission in the patriot army of Mexico, which was engaged in driving out the European invaders. He then became a printer, first in San Francisco and later in New York. P.J. McGuire, the father of Labor day, was for some time secretary of the American federation of labor, and worked unremittingly to secure the general adoption of the labor holiday.

During recent years also, the labor movement has become less disposed to seek its ends by fighting employers, more disposed to get results by co-operating with them. With that plan, it will go on to still greater successes, as little is usually gained when the industries are tied up by strikes.

It is a delightful thing to see our people enjoying the Labor holiday, though this year, unfortunately, many idle ones have had more holidays than they desire. However, that is probably only a temporary misfortune. Labor day, 1933, with the prospects for improvement now in sight, should see the annual September holiday welcome as a pleasant relief from toil.

Tyrone Daily Herald (Tyrone, Pennsylvania) Sep 4, 1916