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Fascinating Facts about Labor Day

Labor Day (occurring on Monday, Sept 4, 2023) is surrounded by great American history and fascinating facts. Created by the labor movement in the late 19th century, it became a federal holiday in 1894.

The backstory.

In the late 1800s, at the height of the US Industrial Revolution, the average American worked 12-hour days and seven-day weeks in order to sustain a very modest quality of life. Despite restrictions in some states, children as young as five or six toiled in mills, factories and mines across the country, earning a fraction of their adult counterparts’ wages.

People of all ages, particularly the very poor and recent immigrants, were taken advantaged of and often faced extremely unsafe working conditions, with insufficient access to fresh air, sanitary facilities and breaks. Children working in coal mines, factories and steel mills were especially susceptible.

Child Labor during the Industrial Revolution in America

The idea of a Labor Day holiday began in the 1880’s as a tribute to workers who made America strong and prosperous. First, municipalities created the holiday and then states jumped on board, and in 1884 Congress passed the act making the first Monday in September each year a legal holiday called Labor Day.

Early Labor Day Parade / Getty Images

This holiday thanks the more than 150 million Americans who make up our country’s workforce today. Labor Day is traditionally considered a workingman’s holiday or in today’s vernacular a working person’s holiday. After all, women make up 50% of the U.S. workforce. While we Americans celebrate with parades, festivals, backyard Bar-B-Qs and political speeches … we are also celebrating the spirit of the American worker.

10 Fascinating Facts about Labor Day:

Labor Day is celebrated on the first Monday of every September.

The idea first became public in 1882. In September 1882, the unions of New York City decided to have a parade to celebrate its human workforce. At least 20,000 people were there, and the workers had to give up a day’s pay to attend.

3. The holiday is meant to honor the nearly 160 million working Americans.

Other countries celebrate Labor Day on May 1 instead.

5. It's the third most popular day of the year to have a cookout.

6. Grover Cleveland helped make Labor Day a national holiday. After violence related to the Pullman railroad strike, President Cleveland and lawmakers in Washington wanted a federal holiday to celebrate labor. Cleveland signed an act in 1894 establishing the federal holiday even though most states had already passed laws establishing a Labor Day holiday.

7. The holiday has evolved over the years. In the late 19th century, celebrations focused on parades in urban areas. Now the holiday has fewer parades but more activities. It also marks the perceived end of the summer season.

8. The Adamson Act was passed on September 3, 1916, to establish an eight-hour workday.

9. Historians say the expression “no white after Labor Day” comes from when the upper class would return from their summer vacations and stow away their lightweight, white summer clothes as they returned back to school and work.

10. It's the beginning of back-to-school season!

It depends on the area, but many public schools have their first day of the academic year a day or two after Labor Day. Some states are even requiring schools to start after Labor Day. That leaves parents with last-minute back-to-school shopping to do on the holiday weekend!

As Express employs about 600,000 associates worldwide each year, I’ve learned that hard work and a positive work ethic is synonymous with America. We put in more hours and take fewer vacation days than our European counterparts and our productivity is always among the top in the world.

Among the blessings in my life, it is helping people land a job that is truly rewarding.

Every day is Labor Day for me, and for that - I’m am eternally grateful.



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