While most people today think of Labor Day as the last weekend of summer, it was actually founded to recognize the men and women and “industrial spirit” of the American workforce.
On September 5, 1882—the height of the Industrial Revolution—the first Labor Day was celebrated in New York City. It was proposed as a “monster labor festival” and featured a parade, barbecues, and picnics. An estimated 10,000 marchers attended the parade. Many workers ended up losing a day’s pay in order to participate in the parade. The event was successful and declared “a day of the people” by the newspapers.
Since then, other states joined in to celebrate the American worker. In 1887, Oregon became the first state to make Labor Day an official public holiday. Thirty other states followed before it became a federal holiday in 1894.
Today, many people use Labor Day as their last long weekend to get away, score the best shopping deals, barbecue and picnic, and don an all-white getup for the last time until Memorial Day.
Click through the gallery to see how Americans have celebrated past Labor Days.