Brewtown Politico

Carrying a little stick and speaking loudly in Milwaukee


Labor Day's founder

The Labor Day holiday is traced back to the Knights of Labor and a parade they organized in New York on September 5, 1882. There's a good article from the Detroit News though about another laborer who developed the idea and organized his own parade earlier that year. It got got the attention of the Knights of Labor who moved the idea forward.

History has almost forgotten Peter McGuire, an Irish-American cabinet maker and pioneer unionist who proposed a day dedicated to all who labor. Old records describe him as a red-headed, fiery, eloquent leader of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners.

McGuire introduced his idea formally at a meeting of the Central Labor Union on May 18,1882. "Let us have, a festive day during which a parade through the streets of the city would permit public tribute to American Industry," he said.

The following September New York workers staged a parade up Broadway to Union Square. Few, if any, workers got the day off. Most were warned against marching in the parade with the threat of getting fired. Despite the warning, more than 10,000 workers showed up for the march. Led by mounted police, bricklayers in white aprons paraded with a band playing "Killarney." The marchers passed a reviewing stand crowded with Knights of Labor: a holiday was born. McGuire's holiday moved across the country as slowly as did recognition of the rights of the working man.

Read the rest here.


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