The first Monday in September is set aside to recognize the social and economic achievements of American workers. It’s also a last hurrah of summer, as family members and friends get in that last trip, party or other warm-weather special event. Here are some fun facts about Labor Day and suggestions on how to make the most of the holiday.
How it started
Observation of Labor Day evolved during the late 19th century, in the throes of the Industrial Revolution, as activists called for a holiday to celebrate workers’ contributions to the nation’s strength and prosperity.
Before it became a federal holiday, Labor Day was recognized by individual states. New York was first to introduce legislation, but Oregon was first to pass a law recognizing Labor Day, on Feb. 21, 1887 — followed that year by Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York. By the end of the decade, Connecticut, Nebraska and Pennsylvania had followed suit. By 1894, 23 more states got on board.
On June 28, 1894, Congress passed an act, then signed into law by President Grover Cleveland, making the first Monday in September of each year a federal holiday.
Who gets credit?
Two men with similar names have been credited with proposing a holiday for workers.
Some records show that Peter J. McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and a co-founder of the American Federation of Labor, in 1882 suggested setting aside a day to honor laborers “who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold.”
Another view, bolstered by recent research, says machinist Matthew Maguire proposed the holiday that same year while serving as secretary of the Central Labor Union in New York.
The two men didn’t appear to clamor over credit — both attended the country’s first Labor Day parade in New York City in 1894.
President Joe Biden took part in Pittsburgh’s 37th annual Labor Day Parade on Sept. 3, 2018.
The three P’s
Labor Day is traditionally celebrated with these three P’s: parades, picnics and parties.
Unfortunately, Pittsburgh’s Labor Day was canceled for the second year, because of lingering pandemic concerns. But that still leaves picnics and parties.
Other popular ways to spend the long weekend include:
• Day trips
• Shopping Labor Day sales
Pack a picnic
If your Labor Day plans include a good, old-fashioned picnic, here are seven of the top foods (or six foods and one beverage) to take along, according to the National Day Calendar:
• Fried chicken
• Pasta salad
• Deviled eggs
Labor Day weekend is traditionally a top travel time, but this year, to travel or not to travel has been the question. According to Conde Nast Traveler, many Americans have kept this year’s Labor Day plans flexible, because of uncertainty over spread of the delta variant.
“There’s been a lot of interest this summer for travel,” said Jim Garrity, AAA East Central director of public affairs. “People are being a little more cautious because of the changing regulations and virus situation, but our summer travel booking figures are rivaling 2019, so people are anxious to get on the road and travel again.”
Travel data company Arrivalist predicted a 1% drop in Americans hitting the road this weekend, compared to 2020, in the midst of the pandemic, and a 10% decrease compared to 2019.
Trip Advisor reported an early August trend of last-minute travel bookings. The trend emerged last year in response to a rise in refundable and flexible booking options.
Trip Advisor also says that most Americans are traveling domestically this year (perhaps out of necessity), with cars.com reporting that 90% of summer travel is taking place in private vehicles.
It’s no longer a fashion faux pas to wear white after Labor Day. Here, Tracy Showman (left), Suzanne Ward, Ann Richmond and Missy Smeltz wear the de rigueur white apparel at the 2019 Westmoreland Croquet Club Tournament.
The old rule of fashion was that white clothing was appropriate only between Memorial Day and Labor Day. How that rule evolved is open to debate, according to Southern Living. Obviously, lighter-colored clothing is cooler than dark duds in the dog days of summer.
One theory says that wearing white was a marker of class distinction. City dwellers wore dark clothing to mask the urban grime they picked up as they moved about. The wealthy, who could afford to summer in the country, wore white to indicate their social standing.
By the 1950s, the rule was touted by fashion magazines and became popular with the middle class — though not everyone was on board. French fashion designer Coco Chanel notoriously wore white all year-round.
Today, it’s more about fabric than color. Labor Day is the time to pack away your white cottons and bring out your white wools.
As fashion designer Michael Kors tweeted in 2013, “Ignore the old rules. White after Labor Day is glamorous.”
Get out and celebrate
Still looking for something to do on this last official weekend of summer? Here are last-minute options for music, family fun, food, shopping for fall decor and more.
• Allegheny County Music Festival: Popular Pittsburgh band The Commonheart headlines the annual festival, also featuring Funky Fly Project, Meeting of Important People and Sierra Sellers. Music kicks off at 5 p.m. Sunday at Hartwood Acres Park Amphitheatre.
Food trucks and Hop Farm Brewing Co. will be on site beginning at 6 p.m.
Suggested donation of $20 per car and a 50-50 raffle benefit the Allegheny County Music Festival Fund, which assists children and youth receiving services through the Department of Human Services and the Juvenile Section of the Family Division of the Court of Common Pleas.
• Arts & Crafts Labor Day Festival: The 28th-annual event promises about 200 indoor and outdoor exhibits at the Westmoreland Fairgrounds in Mt. Pleasant Township. Hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. today and Monday and 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday-Sunday.
Vendors will offer floral designs, embellished clothing, scented candles, jewelry, soft sculpture, functional and decorative wood, pet items, seasonal home decor, ceramics, flags, adult beverages, gourmet prepackaged and ready-to-eat foods.
The festival also features live music and children’s activities.
Admission is $6.50, $6 for ages 65 and older, $3 for ages 12-15.
• Heinz Field Kickoff and Rib Festival: The five-day festivities continue from noon- 11 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 8 a.m.-11 p.m. Sunday and noon-7 p.m. Monday at the home of the Pittsburgh Steelers on the Steel City’s North Side.
The extravaganza includes food, music, rides and games, a Steelers Experience and appearances by Steely McBeam.
Admission is free; some elements require paid tickets.
• Labor United Celebration: Westmoreland County Parks and Recreation Department celebrates “the proud tradition of labor in Western Pennsylvania” with the annual two-day event in Northmoreland Park in Allegheny Township. Hours are 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Sunday and 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday.
Festivities include live music, Zerbini Family Circus, bingo, arts and crafts marketplace and flea market with more than 150 vendors.
Parking and admission are free. Purchase of the $4 all-day activity pass includes unlimited access to midway rides, petting zoo, horse-drawn trolley rides, circus, kiddie train rides, bounce houses and other activities.
Shirley McMarlin is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Shirley at 724-836-5750, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .