Labor Day

To find some meaning behind our end-of-summer holiday, I have uncovered an eclectic collection of American history sites that celebrate the working man’s struggle.

Fighters on the Farm Front4 stars

Between 1940 and 1943, the number of farm workers in the US decreased considerably because of army enlistment and competition with higher paying defense jobs. At the same time, farmers were asked to increase production to help the war effort. By 1943, the nation's food supply was in serious jeopardy. On April 29, 1943, Congress passed the Farm Labor Supply Appropriation Act. This exhibit tells the story of how Oregon's Emergency Farm Labor Service assisted with over 900,000 placements on the state's farms. Farm laborers included city kids and women, soldiers, white collar workers, displaced Japanese-Americans, returning war veterans, migrant workers from Mexico and Jamaica, and even German prisoners-of-war.

Haymarket Martyrs3 stars

The story of the Haymarket Martyrs begins at a convention of the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions in 1884. The Federation called for a two-year effort to win the eight-hour workday, instead of the ten- to twelve-hour days that were common. After May 1 of 1886, all workers not yet on an eight-hour schedule, were to cease work in a nation-wide strike until their employer met the demand. I'll let you read the rest of the story yourself.

History of Labor Day4 stars

The first Labor Day holiday, created by the Central Labor Union of New York, was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882. The Central Labor Union urged labor organizations in other cities to follow their example of a "workingmen's holiday". The idea spread. The first municipal ordinances were passed during 1885 and 1886. The first state bill to become law was passed by Oregon on February 2l, l887.

Inside an American Factory5 stars

What was factory life like at the turn of the century? Now you can step onto the factory floor of The Westinghouse Works company of 1904, as it was filmed for the Louisiana Purchase Exposition held in St. Louis that year. Even if you don't download these very large MPEG and AVI films, there is much to read and learn at this site. The companies of Westinghouse Works prided themselves on being modern and progressive, and were proud of the working conditions in their plants. For details on their welfare programs and the company-built employee housing, read "Working Conditions" which you will find at the Special Presentation link near the bottom of the first page.

Honorable Mentions

The following links are either new discoveries or sites that didn't make it into my newspaper column because of space constraints. Enjoy!

Child Labor in America

Curriculum of United States Labor History

Eclectic List of Events in History of Labor

Short History of American Labor

Cite This Page

Feldman, Barbara. "Labor Day." Surfnetkids. Feldman Publishing. 2 Sep. 1997. Web. 2 Sep. 2015. < >.

About This Page

By . Originally published September 2, 1997. Last modified September 2, 1997.

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