It’s ironic that most people don’t work on Labor Day. As a matter of fact, there are plenty of curious customs associated with this holiday. And here at Liberty Nation, we plan to explore them all – just for the heck of it.
The Beast of Buffalo gets the Ball Rolling
There were plenty of little Labor Days springing up across America in the late 1800s, but it was the president affectionately known as The Beast of Buffalo, Grover Cleveland, who signed, sealed and delivered Labor Day to the American people. In 1894, he signed an act making Labor Day a federal holiday which Congress approved on June 28, 1894. Cleveland’s interest in Labor Day was perhaps a wise political maneuver. The timing is auspicious as it came on the heels of the Pullman Strike — which isn’t worth going into except to say the workers at Pullman were quite an unhappy lot, to say the least.
Founder of Labor Day
It seems that no one can get to the bottom of precisely who founded Labor Day but both possibilities have the surname McGuire. Some say General Secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and a co-founder of the American Federation of Labor, Peter J. McGuire is the man behind the origins of this national holiday. But others challenge this and say it is Matthew Maguire (apparently no relation due to the spelling). Matthew is said to have proposed Labor Day way back in 1882 when he was Secretary of the Central Labor Union in New York. There’s a lot of back and forth on this, and we may never really know the true founder, so pick one and just go with that.
It’s been long held that wearing white is – as the French would say — C’est de mauvais goût*, or if you really have some class, C’est pas comme il faut**– after Labor Day. In the Victorian era summer ended on Labor Day and one’s summer cottage wardrobe was then assigned to the rear of the closet. Back in the day, those with means would head for the hills or the seaside donning cool, white clothing to escape the city heat. So much for life before air conditioning. These days even Emily Post says it’s not a faux pas to wear white after Labor Day. So keep those white shoes handy. For those suffering from fashion fear we offer these comforting words from Ms. Post, “wear what’s appropriate—for the weather, the season, or the occasion.” So, if you’re feeling fearless and audacious put on those white patent leather shoes and head out the door.
Hot Dog Season Ends
However, if you do want to stay trendy lose the hot dogs. Apparently, Labor Day is the official end of the Hot Dog season. According to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council Americans eat somewhere around 7 billion—that’s a “b” as in billion — hot dogs after Memorial Day and before Labor Day. Perhaps it’s a good time to dump your Oscar Meyer stock, too.
The American Worker
Without a doubt, the American worker is almost a worldwide phenomenon. Many countries take several weeks or even a month to relax and unwind. But here in the U.S., the Protestant work ethic is alive and well with most employees averaging just two weeks of vacation. Of course, this labor force has brought about an almost unprecedented standard of living. So, whatever you do this Labor Day, kick back and remember to stay away from the hot dogs, wear white if you darn well feel like it and celebrate the greatest nation the world has ever known. And it’s all because of you.
Note: for those who took Spanish instead of French in school * is (in poor taste) and ** is (that’s not the way it’s done.)