In the United States a civilization was carved out in the wilderness by the labor of the people. A powerful, modern nation emerged through the toil of its pioneers and the work of its industrial force.
Working conditions have not always been what they are today. For many years, the tremendous wealth and power of a few men combined to make virtual slaves of the workers in industry. But the self-respect of these workers gave birth to the world’s first large-scale organizations of labor.
At the suggestion of Peter J. McGuire, a leader in two labor organizations, “Labor’s Holiday” was first celebrated in New York on September 5, 1882, to honor “the industrial spirit, the great vital force of the nation.” In 1894 the United States government honored the labor unions, the workers, and the dignity of work by proclaiming Labor Day, the first Monday in September, a national holiday.(1)
I Hear America Singing
I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear, Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong, The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam, The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work, The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deckhand singing on the steamboat deck, The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing as he stands, The wood-cutter’s song, the ploughboy’s on his way in the morning, or at noon intermission or at sundown, The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work, or of the girl sewing or washing, Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else, The day what belongs to the day—at night the party of young fellows, robust, friendly, Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.
For further study:
1. Stewart, Ruth Weeden. “Labor Day.” Collier’s Jr. Classics vol. 6 Harvest of Holidays. Ed. Margaret E. Martignoni. New York: The Crowell-Collier Publishing Company, 1962. p. 237. Print.