Labor Day (Lawrence, MA)

labordayLabor Day The library has two copies of the program for the Labor Day celebration in Lawrence, Mass. September 3, 1901.

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. Through the years the nation gave increasing emphasis to Labor Day. The first governmental recognition came through municipal ordinances passed during 1885 and 1886. From them developed the movement to secure state legislation. The first state bill was introduced into the New York legislature, but the first to become law was passed by Oregon on February 21, 1887. During the year four more states — Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York — created the Labor Day holiday by legislative enactment. By the end of the decade Connecticut, Nebraska, and Pennsylvania had followed suit. By 1894, 23 other states had adopted the holiday in honor of workers, and on June 28 of that year, the United States Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September of each year a legal holiday. Lawrence celebrated Labor Day for the first time September 5, 1887. There was little written in the newspaper about the event except to say it was “quiet and orderly.” However there was an advertisement for the “first excursion of the Joint Executive Board of the Knights of Labor to Pine Island (dancing free).” By 1900 the Lawrence Central Labor Union printed an official program detailing events like children’s entertainments, whippet races, a parade, Turn Verein gymnastic and athletic exhibitions, horse racing, a relay race, Cricket games, and a baseball game. In 1985 the Bread and Roses Heritage Committee, Inc. added the Bread and Roses Festival to city celebrations in honor of the workingmen and women who stood up to mill owners in the Lawrence Textile Strike of 1912. The festival is still going strong today (2009).

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