On September 5, 1882, some 10,000 workers assembled in New York City to participate in America’s first Labor Day parade. After marching from City Hall, past reviewing stands in Union Square, and then uptown to 42nd Street, the workers and their families gathered in Wendel’s Elm Park for a picnic, concert, and speeches. This first Labor Day celebration was eagerly organized and executed by New York’s Central Labor Union, an umbrella group made up of representatives from many local unions.
New York’s Labor Day celebrations inspired similar events across the country. In 1894, Congress passed legislation making Labor Day a national holiday.
The Eight-Hour Day movement is part of the early history of the celebration of Labor Day in many nations and cultures.
Nowadays, Labor Day is associated less with union activities and protest marches and more with leisure.
For many, the holiday is a time for family picnics, sporting events, and summer’s last hurrah.
Text from the Library of Congress “Today in History” Archive.