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Charlie Chaplin works hard on a factory line. Charlie Chaplin in Modern Times, 1936. (The Everett Collection)

Celebrating Labor Day

Do you know the story behind today’s holiday?

By Zach Jones | September 5 , 2010

Many people think of Labor Day as the end of summer. But what's today's holiday really about?

The first Monday in September is Labor Day, a special day to celebrate working people.

Who first came up with the idea of a workers' holiday? There is still some doubt. The idea may have come from Canada, where Labour Day parades have been held since 1872.

Some historians say a machinist named Matthew Maguire started the holiday. Maguire was a union leader in New York City. In 1882, Maguire called for the city's workforce to lead a "festive parade through the streets of the city." More than 10,000 workers marched through New York City.

Labor Day was later officially recognized by several states, beginning with Oregon in 1887. It became a national holiday for all workers across the U.S in 1894.

That year, President Grover Cleveland wanted to heal wounds from a conflict between workers and big companies that started with the Pullman Railroad Strike. During the strike, more than 250,000 railroad workers from 27 states fought with the country's biggest railroad companies for higher pay and shorter workdays. President Cleveland wanted Labor Day to recognize the contributions of workers to the American economy.

These days, Labor Day means many things to Americans. It heralds the start of the pro football season, and the start of a new school year for many students. It's also a time for parades and fireworks, and for enjoying the last days of summer. Have a happy holiday!

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