September 4, 2006
marks the annual celebration of Labor Day, a holiday dedicated to the social
and economic achievements of American workers. Labor Day is a yearly national
tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity,
and well-being of the United States.
The name of the person who founded Labor Day is unknown. But it is known that the first Labor Day holiday was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York City, in accordance with the plans of the Central Labor Union. The form that the observance and celebration of Labor Day should take was outlined in the first proposal of the holiday — a street parade to exhibit to the public "the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations" of the community, followed by a festival for the recreation and amusement of the workers and their families.
The History of
The Origins of Labor Day - Jim Lehrer News Hour
Labor Day Scavenger Hunt
Learn About the Life of Labor
Inside an American Factory: Films of the Westinghouse Works, 1904
The Westinghouse Works Collection at the Library of Congress site contains 21 film clips showing various views of Westinghouse companies. Most prominently featured are the Westinghouse Air Brake Company, the Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company, and the Westinghouse Machine Company. The films were intended to showcase the company's operations. Exterior and interior shots of the factories are shown along with scenes of male and female workers performing their duties at the plants.
Homestead and Pullman Strikes
This page looks at the Homestead and Pullman strikes in 1892 and 1894 and how they brought labor issues into the political arena during the Presidential election of 1894.
The Triangle Fire
Near closing time on Saturday afternoon, March 25, 1911, a fire broke out on the top floors of the Asch Building in the Triangle Shirtwaist Company in New York City. By the time the fire was over, 146 of the 500 employees had died. This marked one of the greatest tragedies in labor history and turned the tide in public conscience about the need safeguards in the workplace. Find out about the fire and its consequences at this site that includes primary documents, secondary resources and photos.
The History Place: Child Labor in America 1908-1912
As early as the 1830s, many U.S. states had enacted laws restricting or prohibiting the employment of young children in industrial settings. However, in rural communities where child labor on the farm was common, employment of children in mills and factories did not arouse much concern. Another problem for children was the popular opinion that gainful employment of children of the "lower orders" actually benefited poor families and the community at large. This set of photographs is from the Lewis W. Hine collection
American Labor History: An Online Study Guide
Search this site by Mark Lause either by region or historical era to find out what was happening related to the history of labor. Some links don't work as of this writing but those that do are worth it!
Walter P. Reuther Library - Online Exhibits
Exhibits from the library will be a great resource in teaching about labor history:
A Curriculum of United States Labor History for Teachers
This site, sponsored by the Illinois Labor History Society, is an outline of historical eras with information and suggestions of ways to integrate the story of labor into the History-Social Science curriculum.
1. The Colonial Period to 1763
2. The Revolutionary Era: 1763-1789
3. The Growth of a New Nation: 1789-1830
4. Expansion and Sectionalism: 1830-1850
5. The Civil War and Reconstruction: 1850-1877
6. The Industrial Revolution and the Progressive Era: 1877-1913
7. The First World War: 1914-1920
8. The Roaring Twenties: 1921-1929
9. The Great Depression: 1929-1939
10. The Second World War: 1939-1945
11. Post War America: 1946-Present
13. Significant People in America's Labor History for Possible Research
Labor History in the United States
The Industrial Revolution was a time of great innovation and technological advances. As the nation grew, so too did the need for labor to work in the factories and the mines. The promise of opportunity in America resulted in working conditions that were harsh and dangerous for many men, women and children. After reading about the major strikes of the era (Haymarket, Pullman, Homestead) and the Ludlow Massacre discuss the ethics of the issues related to labor and big business.
Activities, Community Helpers, Coloring Pages, and Crafts for Kids
This site for young children has activities to teach about Labor Day. The emphasis is on community helper workers.
Labor Hall of
In this activity, students create a museum-like exhibit of the life and achievements of a major leader of American labor. Many of these leaders will be from the post-Civil War era when American industry went through a period of rapid expansion and the U.S. experienced unprecedented immigration. Some leaders who lived in the early 20th century became involved in social and political movements with outreach beyond the United States. Other leaders from more recent times were involved in the spread of labor union rights to previously under represented segments of the economy such as agriculture.
Work, Lyddie! Work!
This is a chance for you to find out what it was like to have to work instead of having the chance to go to school. Analyze primary source documents about early factory labor (young women mill workers during the period 1840-1860) showing their hours of labor, ages, reasons for working, and factory conditions. Then read a historical novel about the time, Lyddie by Katherine Paterson. Research modern day labor issues to see if the things faced by Lyddie are really so different today in places where young people do not have the opportunity to go to school. To share what you learned with others, you will write a poem or labor song.
Comparative Labor Systems: Plantation Rules/Factory Rules
Using primary source materials and two essays, you will compare the rules governing work enforced on two plantations and in two factories during the 19th century. Compare: 1. the way time is organized on the plantation with the way time is organized in the factory 2. to whome the rules addressed The plantation rules contain more instructions for the care of slaves, as well as for the physical punishment of slaves, than the factory rules do. What does this tell us? How would you compare the factory and plantation rules to the rules of your school?
Pullman Strike of 1894
The Pullman Strike is remembered as one of the turning points in American labor history. You decide: "Did the federal government behave properly in using force to end the Pullman Strike?" Get inside the actions and motivations of the various parties in the strike by role-playing commissioners who examined different groups involved. You will read and act out expert testimony to the commission as a worker, manager, or resident of Chicago.
Who Really Built America?
Using the wealth of resources at the Library of Congress, explore the question " How did work affect the American child within a rapidly growing industrial society between 1880 and 1920?" Gain expertise in analyzing historical data on coal breaker boys, cranberry bog workers, potato workers, and migrant fruit workers. Gain a personal perspective on work in an emerging industrial society and its effect on the American child.
Work Forced: Exploring Issues Facing Young Farm Workers
Explore issues surrounding the use of itinerant child labor on farms around the United States. Explore issues facing child farm workers by reading and discussing "Farm Work By Children Tests Labor Laws." Identify and articulate the concerns and agendas of stakeholders in issues surrounding child farm workers.
Children’s Literature Selections Related to Labor Day
Altman, Linda Jacobs. Amelia’s Road
Bartoletti, Susan Campbell. Growing Up in Coal Country
Bartoletti, Susan Campbell. Kids On Strike!
Bunting, Eve. A Day’s Work
Freedman, Russell. Kids at Work: Lewis Hine and the Crusade Against Child Labor
Gates, Doris. Blue Willow
Greenwood, Janette T. Gilded Age, The: A History in Documents
Herrera, Juan Felipe. Calling the Doves/El Canto de Los Palomas
Horton, Madelyn. The Importance of Mother Jones
Kraft, Betsy Harvey. Mother Jones: One Woman's Fight for Labor
Lens, Sidney. Strikemakers and Strikebreakers
Livingston, Myra Cohn. Celebrations
Mofford, Juliet H., and Lewis Hine. Child Labor in America
Mofford, Juliet H. Talkin' Union: The American Labor Movement
Moore, Elaine. Good Morning, City
Paterson, Katherine. Lyddie
Paulsen, Gary. La Tortilleria/The Tortilla Factory
Ruiz, Dana Catharine de. La Causa: The Migrant Farm Workers’ Story
Ryan, Pam Munoz. Esperanza Rising
Stanley, Jerry. Big Annie of Calumet: A True Story of the Industrial Revolution
Stevens, Janet. Tops and Bottoms
Yep, Laurence. Dragon’s Gate