On the first Monday in September each year, American workers get the day off to enjoy the fruits of their labor. Labor Day has been observed in the United States since the late 1800s. Though today the holiday is often celebrated at backyard barbecues and at the beach, its first observance began with union demonstrations in New York City.

Unions Organize Labor Day

Labor Day grew out of the American labor movement. It was created by workers as a way to celebrate their contributions to the United States. In the 1880s, New York's Central Labor Union was the first to observe a Labor Day holiday, organizing picnics and demonstrations. Soon, other labor unions followed suit. By 1885, Labor Day was observed in cities across the country with parades, festivals and speeches by prominent leaders and citizens.

Declaring Labor Day Official

Oregon was the first state to institute an official Labor Day in 1887. Other states followed, including Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York. When the tally reached 30, the federal government decided it was time to step in. On June 28, 1894, President Grover Cleveland, unpopular due to stopping a Pullman strike that left several people dead, signed a bill not only to improve his image, but to make Labor Day an official federal holiday.