Oregon became the first state to enact an official recognition of Labor Day on February 21, 1887. The first initiatives began through municipal ordinances passed during 1885 and 1886. Four more states followed Oregon’s lead that year. By 1890 twenty-three additional states adopted the holiday. The U.S. Congress established the first Monday in September of each year as a national holiday.
Not surprisingly, the Oregonian took exception to the notion. In an editorial on February 10, 1887, the paper declared:
“About the silliest of all the demagogical methods of “aiding labor” is the bill to declare a special holiday in June to be known as “Labor Day.” There is sufficient inclination to idleness, there are sufficient incentives to productivity already. Just in what way labor is to be benefited by an invitation to shut up shop or stop the plow upon a particular day in the busy season, or indeed, at any other time, does not appear.”
In February 1887 Oregon’s eight governor, Sylvester Pennoyer, signed House Bill #102, declaring the first Saturday in June a public holiday, to be known as Labor Day. Pennoyer, a Democrat, took office the month before. He supported labor unions and favored use of American labor over that of Chinese immigrants.
The paper managed a “Brief Mention” on June 4, 1887 about the new holiday: “Today (Labor day) is a legal holiday and no session of the state courts will be held, either justice’s or circuit.” Two other articles the next day briefly described Labor Day activities in Salem and Eugene.
US Department of Labor (www.dol.gov/laborday/history.htm)
Editorial, Oregonian, February 10, 1887, 4.
“Bills Signed by the Governor,’ Oregonian, February 23, 1887, 2.
“Brief Mention,” Oregonian, June 4, 1887, 8.
Terry, John. Oregon's Trails: Death shroud a suggestive footnote to a gadfly's death. Oregonian, November 9, 2003, as noted in Wikipedia.
Author Historian Activist