MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 3: Across America, experts are predicting increased travel this Labor Day, so journalists already are publishing unusual ideas for holiday getaways. Want to avoid the biggest holiday mobs? The Newsweek/Daily Beast website has an intriguing list of Last-Minute Labor Day Getaways. If you click over that Daily Beast page, you might see the initial Caribbean and Mexico suggestions and figure you’ll skip the rest, but keep scrolling. The Daily Beast editors also include quirky state-side ideas like the Southern Vermont Garlic and Herb Festival.
GAS PRICES WILL RISE: Brace yourself. Yes, gas prices are expected to rise over the holiday period. From New Mexico to Nebraska and from Orange County to Orlando, news reports are predicting per-gallon prices topping $4. But, those same reports also predict a rising tide of travel with more than 30 million Americans planning to hit the road. The costly gas won’t keep us home.
VIOLENT HISTORY OF LABOR DAY
The struggle for an eight-hour workday, for example, culminated in the infamous Haymarket incident—sometimes called the Haymarket Affair or Massacre or Riot. Think that our current political climate is explosive? On Tuesday May 4, 1886, a peaceful protest for workers’ rights in Chicago’s Haymarket Square turned deadly when a bomb exploded and gunfire broke out. Police had been trying to break up the protest. Events before, during and after the Haymarket bombing are complex and historians still are debating exactly what happened. The main outcome of that bloody day was a worldwide movement to mark May 1 each year as an International Workers’ Day.
But, our current Labor Day didn’t become a federal holiday until 1894. By that time, most states already were observing a holiday for to highlight workers. However, American labor activists were eager to draw a line between their movement and other worldwide groups, such as anarchists and socialists, who were continuing to spark fear across the U.S. So, the U.S. became distinctive in celebrating labor about four months after May 1.
President Grover Cleveland and the U.S. Congress were not eager to establish this observance as a national holiday—but there was another harsh backlash after U.S. Marshals and the U.S. Army broke up the Pullman Strike, again in Chicago and again resulting in many deaths and injuries. President Cleveland and Congress rushed the national holiday through Washington shortly after the strike reached its tragic conclusion. They wanted to prove that they were on the side of working Americans.
LABOR DAY AND REMEMBERING WHY WE LOVE AMERICA
Across the U.S., some labor-organized parades and public events continue to be held. Check local news media in your region for times and places. Mainly, however, Americans look at this long holiday weekend as a time for one last warm-weather vacation. Public schools and the football season are getting back into the autumn swing of things. Labor Day is widely regarded as the end of summer—even though autumn doesn’t really begin in the Northern Hemisphere until the Equinox that falls this year on September 22.
This is a terrific time to reacquaint yourself with America’s grandeur and diversity. On the holiday weekend, state and national parks will overflow this year, experts predict, but there are lots of other awe-inspiring vistas to visit. Try setting your course for one of the country’s many sea-port, river-front or lake-front towns and watch the waves, wildlife and ships. Or, visit one of the thousands of museums that dot our landscape. Since the peak of historical tourism in the 1976 bicentennial year, many nonprofit historical sites are struggling. Your visit, and perhaps your ongoing involvement, can help such nonprofits to survive.
You’ll find more great ideas in our own American Journey series, published in late summer 2010. Got a fascinating Labor Day story in your part of the country? Email us at [email protected] and let us share it with readers.