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"Labor and Luck"

"I'm a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it."

So said Thomas Jefferson. And most people would agree with him. Every September, the nation pays tribute to the men and women whose labor has contributed to the "luck" of the United States, the world's oldest democracy.

The first Labor Day was celebrated in New York City on Sept. 5, 1882, when some 10,000 workers assembled to participate in America's first Labor Day parade. After marching from City Hall to Union Square, the workers and their families gathered in Reservoir Park for a picnic, concert and speeches. This first Labor Day celebration was initiated by Peter J. McGuire, a carpenter and labor union leader who a year earlier co-founded the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions, a precursor of the American Federation of Labor.

William Clark's compass and case Sen. Lyndon B. Johnson, Senate majority leader, Sept. 1955.

McGuire had proposed his idea for a holiday honoring American workers at a labor meeting in early 1882. New York's Central Labor Union quickly approved his proposal and began planning events for the second Tuesday in September. McGuire had suggested a September date in order to provide a break during the long stretch between Independence Day and Thanksgiving. While the first Labor Day was held on a Tuesday, the holiday was soon moved to the first Monday in September, the date we continue to observe.

New York's Labor Day celebrations inspired similar events across the country. Oregon became the first state to grant legal status to the holiday, in 1887; other states soon followed. In 1894 Congress passed legislation making Labor Day a national holiday.

You can read more about Labor Day and other events that have occurred on Sept. 5 by going to Today in History, a Web site that has something to say about every day of the year.

You can view a Thomas Edison film, ca. 1904, of a Labor Day parade in Massachusetts. More than a dozen of the collections in the American Memory Web site offer films, ranging from the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and advertisements for Coca-Cola to buckaroos in northern Nevada and presidential inaugurations. These films can be accessed from the Motion Pictures page.

More than 8 million rare historical items can be freely accessed in American Memory, a Library Web site that organizes these materials in more than 120 thematic collections. If you go to the American Memory Collection Search page and type in "Labor Day," you will gain access to more that 180 items related to this holiday.

For example, a 1904 photograph from the "Chicago Daily News" shows a Labor Day parade on Michigan Avenue. A panoramic photograph that is nothing short of amazing offers a view of spectators on all four sides of the ring at the Mike Dempsey - Billy Miske heavyweight championship fight on Labor Day, Sept. 6, 1920, in Benton Harbor, Mich. A 1933 photograph of a Labor Day parade in Washington, D.C., were it not for the view of the U.S. Capitol in the background, would scarcely be recognizable as an image of the bustling capital city otherwise.

A. Labor Day parade, Main St., Buffalo, N.Y., ca. 1900. Detroit Publishing Photograph Collection, Prints and Photographs Division. Reproduction No.: LC-D4-12909 DLC (b&w glass neg.); Call No.: LC-D4-12909.

B. Anton Bruehl, photographer. Labor Day poster distributed to war plants and labor organizations, Aug. 1942. Office of War Information (OWI) Collection, Prints and Photographs Division. Reproduction No: LC-USE6-D-005707 DLC (b&w film neg.); Call No.: LC-USE6- D-005707.

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