The Surprising Country Where "Labor Day" Actually Started

No, it wasn't America.

The Surprising Country Where "Labor Day" Actually Started
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These days, Labor Day has become just another day off of work or school where people stuff their faces with hot dogs at a cookout and take in the final moments of summer. Yet, the origins of Labor Day are a celebration of the workers fighting in the labor rights movement of the 19th century. In fact, though many people believe the first Labor Day was celebrated in 1882 with a worker's parade march in New York City, the origins date back even earlier than that and in an entirely different country.

In the 1800s, the science and technology of the Industrial Revolution brought great advancements in machinery, which came with dangerous working conditions. In 1841, for example, the average London factory worker was only expected to live to the age of 37. Throughout the latter half of the 19th century, workers all over the globe were protesting, but it was Canada that led the push for labor rights.

In 1872, a parade of more than 10,000 Toronto Typographical Union members and supporters took to the streets of Toronto, kicking off the "Nine-Hour Movement," which earned its name because the union simply wanted to shave off one hour of their work day—from 10 hours to nine. Eventually, this led to Canadian unions being decriminalized with the Trade Unions Act later that year.

After that, the American and Canadian Federations of Labor and the Knights of Labor in both the countries started honoring workers' rights on the first Monday in September, according to the Canadian Encyclopedia. Eventually, as the event grew increasingly popular, labor organizations pressured the government to declare the first Monday in September a national holiday called Labor Day. And eventually, in 1894, they succeeded.

"I think most people consider Labor Day an end-of-summer three-day weekend," David Ray Papke, a law professor at Marquette University and author of The Pullman Case: The Clash of Labor and Capital in Industrial America, told HuffPost. "Very few Americans stop to reflect on the working man, on labor, on the union movement or any of those things."

And for more things to know about this September holiday, check out The Real Reason You Shouldn't Wear White After Labor Day.

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Kali Coleman
Kali is an assistant editor at Best Life. Read more
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