100 Years Ago Today

A History Of Events And Happenings From Exactly One Hundred Years Ago

Labor Day 1912

In Chicago, Illinois May 1, 1886. A huge strike and protest was shattered when a bomb was thrown at the police, killing one. The police over-reacted and fired on the strikers and a riot broke out. In the aftermath, 8 police and 4 strikers were killed. Labor leaders were arrested and indicted and, despite the fact none of the accused were proven to have participated in the bombing, four were hung for having knowledge of the bombing. Much of labor saw this trial as a farce. Since that day, the labor movement used May 1st to memorialize the incident. Radical groups in Europe took the lead of US labor and made May Day an International Worker’s Day at the International Worker’s Congress in Paris 1889. That’s right, the US started May Day as a political celebration.

In an attempt to off-set May Day, the nation had established Labor Day in 1894 (the first Monday in September) as a legal holiday to quell unrest after the death of strikers in the railroad strike of 1894. Reconciliation with labor was a priority and the legislation making Labor Day a federal holiday rushed through Congress and was enacted just six days after the strike. It was hoped that Labor Day, celebrated with picnics, time-off from work with the family, would be a holiday without politics.

Labor Day parade
New York City
September 2, 1912

Labor Day parade
Aurora, Illinois
September 2, 1912


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