Happy Labor Day!

By Stephen D. Bowling

Labor Day is a time for more than mattress sales and cookouts. The history of this holiday sprang from a simple desire to pause one day a year to remember the importance of the laborers and the vital role the worker plays in the American and international economy. Today, most just enjoy the day off and do not really stop to think about the contributions individual workers make to our everyday lives.

L & N workers on this section gang near Whick included McKinley Arrowood, George Crittenden, Harlan Strong, Arch McIntosh, Manford Strong, ____ Gross, Tom Strong, Dave McIntosh, Jack Chaney, George L. Haddix, Arch Spicer, Will Strong, and _______ Arrowood.

An editorial published in the September 1, 1966 edition of The Jackson Times sought to explain the simple origin of this national holiday.

Labor Day

Each year, in the United States, millions of us enjoy a Labor Day holiday and many of us have only a remote idea of the origin of the day.  The idea of the holiday in honor of labor was first suggested by Peter J. McGuire in 1882.  He was then president of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America.

In May of that year, he submitted a proposal to a labor union in New York, where he was living that labor should select a day for a parade that would show the strength and "spirit de corps of the trade and labor organization."

His proposal was adopted and the first labor day celebration occurred on September 5, 1882.  Two years later, on October 9, 1884, the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions of the United States and Canada voted to make the celebration national.

Thus, Labor Day is one of the unique holidays in American Life, which sprang almost spontaneously from the people and which became a national holiday in the short period of years between 1882 and 1894.
Workers standing on a pile of logs at Camp Christy on Strong Fork of Frozen Creek.

The editorial tells part of the Labor Day story. There was much more to the effort to recognize laborers that the editorial did not tell. In 1887, Oregon became the first state to officially adopt the Labor Day holiday and became an official Federal holiday in 1894. In the late 1970s, Jackson started celebrating Labor Day with the addition of Trade Days and then the Honey Festival.

L & N section crew standing for a photo on the tracks at the Altro Depot.

Little thought is given today to the work that millions of laborers contribute to our lives. Workers internationally do not share the holidays and celebrations that American workers enjoy. We pause today and every year on the first Monday in September to think of the work and sacrifices made for our comfort and entertainment by those who labor at home and worldwide.

Enjoy that cheeseburger and the day off with family, but remember that someone’s efforts, sweat, and labor helped you enjoy this day.

Happy Labor Day!

© 2022 Stephen D. Bowling


About sdbowling

Director of the Breathitt County Public Library and Heritage Center in Jackson, Kentucky.
This entry was posted in Breathitt County, Businesses, Industry, Railroad and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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