New York invented the first Labor Day parade

History isn’t sure who actually came up with the idea of a holiday honoring workers. What is known is that the first Labor Day was launched by the Central Labor Union in New York City, with a parade and festivities taking place in Union Square on September 5, 1882.


The holiday was popular. “The following year the union shifted the holiday to the first Monday of the month,” states the Smithsonian/National Museum of American History.

“This tradition generally spread as state governments began to officially put the holiday on their calendars. Finally in 1894, the federal government made Labor Day a national holiday for all 50 states and the District of Columbia.”

This image of the parade five years later also shows marchers in Union Square. And what about the 2020 Labor Day Parade? I tried to look it up but found nothing. Perhaps it’s being held virtually this year due to the pandemic.

[First image: Wikipedia; second image: MCNY]

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11 Responses to “New York invented the first Labor Day parade”

  1. Cheryl Says:

    There were 42 states in 1894.

  2. jmascaro388gmailcom Says:

    There weren’t 50 states in 1894.

    Sent from my iPad


  3. countrypaul Says:

    With organized labor crumbling, I think they’ll need to reorganize before there’s something to celebrate again.

    • Greg Says:

      All too true, I’m afraid. At this point West Indian Day has eclipsed it so completely we in NYC might be better off switching to May Day like the rest of the world. The US started that one too, in any case.

  4. New York invented the first Labor Day parade - The New York Beacon Says:

    […] Source: New York invented the first Labor Day parade […]

  5. New York invented the first Labor Day parade – The Philadelphia Observer Says:

    […] Source: New York invented the first Labor Day parade […]

  6. Bob Says:

    “McGuire or Maguire? A Tussle Over Who Founded Labor Day —
    Descendants of two men with similar last names claim their great-grandfather was the true father of the holiday.”

    “[Matthew] Maguire, a machinist, and [Peter] McGuire, a carpenter, shared a few similarities beyond their last names. Both were respected union leaders with Irish parents, both fought for the betterment of the working class, and both attended the first Labor Day parade in New York City in 1882.”

  7. An NYU building sparks the city’s first organized labor riot in 1834 | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] The labor movement would only grow in strength through the 19th century, and New York was the site of the first Labor Day Parade in the nation in […]

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