The first Labor Day holiday was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York City, in accordance with the plans of the Central Labor Union. The Central Labor Union held its second Labor Day holiday just a year later, on September 5, 1883.
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The History of Labor Day
Labor Day: How it Came About; What it Means
Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the
social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the
contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.
Founder of Labor Day
More than 100 years after the first Labor Day observance, there is still some doubt as to who first
proposed the holiday for workers.
Some records show that Peter J. McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and
Joiners and a cofounder of the American Federation of Labor, was first in suggesting a day to honor
those "who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold."
But Peter McGuire's place in Labor Day history has not gone unchallenged. Many believe that
Matthew Maguire, a machinist, not Peter McGuire, founded the holiday. Recent research seems to
support the contention that Matthew Maguire, later the secretary of Local 344 of the International
Association of Machinists in Paterson, N.J., proposed the holiday in 1882 while serving as secretary of
the Central Labor Union in New York. What is clear is that the Central Labor Union adopted a Labor
Day proposal and appointed a committee to plan a demonstration and picnic.
The First Labor Day
The first Labor Day holiday was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York City, in
accordance with the plans of the Central Labor Union. The Central Labor Union held its second Labor
Day holiday just a year later, on September 5, 1883.
In 1884 the first Monday in September was selected as the holiday, as originally proposed, and the
Central Labor Union urged similar organizations in other cities to follow the example of New York and
celebrate a "workingmen's holiday" on that date. The idea spread with the growth of labor
organizations, and in 1885 Labor Day was celebrated in many industrial centers of the country.