Sunday, August 31, 2008

Labor Day History

Labor Day as a Federal holiday dates from 1894, when Grover Cleveland signed legislation declaring the first Monday in September a holiday for Federal workers and folks in the District of Columbia. (All of the states and Puerto Rico would soon follow in legalizing the holiday.) For twelve years prior, though, the holiday had been observed by large groups of union workers, beginning with a celebration in New York City in 1882 organized by a carpenter named Peter McGuire and a machinist named Matthew Maguire, both active in their respective unions. The idea caught on with workers in cities across the country and, by the time Congress recognized the holiday, it was already fairly widely celebrated.

If you thought Labor Day began with Jerry Lewis' first telethon and the name was simply an acknowledgment of the difficulty of lighting a charcoal grill, it may be worthwhile this year to spend a little time perusing History Resource Center: US, a database available through the library. From here you can get the whole story about the holiday (I got the information in the first paragraph of this post from Adam Hornbuckle and Martin Manning's "Holidays [1878-1899), accessed through the database)," plus background information on the U.S. Labor Movement, Grover Cleveland, and just about any other U.S. history topic, all without much labor on your part.

To get into the database, begin, as always, at the library's homepage. From there, click on "Articles & Databases," then use the categories list on the left side of that page to navigate to the "History & Genealogy" category, under which you'll find History Resource Center: US. If you're not in the library, the database will ask for your library card number before you can access the goods.

There's plenty of exploration to be done in History Resource Center: US. However, if you find yourself wanting more, please feel free to get in touch with the folks here at the Magazines and Newspapers Center for more information on history magazines and databases.

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