Labor Day was proposed in 1882. It is not clear who proposed Labor Day to the government. However, it has been determined that it was either Peter J. McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and a co-founder of the American Federation of Labor or Matthew Maguire, secretary of the Central Labor Union in New York and later secretary of Local 344 of the International Association of Machinists. The first proposal suggested that “the day should be observed with a street parade to show the strength of the trade and labor organizations of the community followed by a festival for the workers and their families.” Thus began the tradition of parades and celebrations that remain today.
The First Labor Day Parade was held on September 5, 1882 in New York City and almost didn’t happen in spite of a huge crowd of spectators – far more spectators than marchers. Everyone was in place with the police in full force to keep order when they realized there was no music. They were then made aware that 200 marchers from the Jewelers Union of Newark Two were on their way and they had a band. Along the way, spectators began to join the parade and there ended up being 10,000-20,000 marchers. Not only was the parade a success, but the festival following the parade went on until 9 p.m. that night with nearly 25,000 union members and their families celebrating the first Labor Day.
By 1894, 23 more states celebrated the holiday and on June 28, 1894, President Cleveland signed the law creating a national Labor Day. It was said in a publication that President Cleveland stated that “the souvenir pen should go to Alderman Matthew Maguire of this city, who is the undisputed author of Labor Day as a holiday.”
So happy Labor Day weekend and get out there and enjoy “picnics and parties” to celebrate as suggested by the founder(s).