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Mary's Miscellanea: Labor Day, then and now

Mary Phillips Modified: September 2, 2013 at 4:00 pm •  Published: September 2, 2013
Labor Day was born on Tuesday, Sept. 5, 1882, in New York City from an idea of labor activist Peter McGuire to honor the worker.
Two yeas later, the holiday was moved to the first Monday in September and Labor Day became a national holiday in 1894.
For an excellent history of Labor Day, visit the Time for Kids website at
I don’t know how much celebrating was done on Labor Day in Territorial days, but many towns in the territories held their own Labor Day parades and festivities with picnics, contests and political speeches,
• 100 years ago
In 1913, there was no parade, but 3,000 people enjoyed a program provided by labor organizations at Fair Park.
There were speeches, motorcycle races, a fat woman’s race, vaudeville acts and a baseball game.
• 75 years ago
For 1938, “Labor had its annual march in Oklahoma City with parade, wrestling show and dance.”
“Participating in the parade were more than 5,000 representatives of 48 American Federation of Labor unions.”
• 50 years ago
In 1963 the school child was truly celebrating the end of summer –  School would start the next day with a promise of temperatures in the high ’90s.
The holiday traffic death toll was 12.
Henryetta held a Labor Day celebration with an estimated 10,000 people attending the traditional parade and a speech against the right-to-work law by the National Farmers Union president.
• 25 years ago
Labor Day 1988 offered pari-mutuel horse racing for the first time in Oklahoma with 18,863 people attending Remington Park’s opening day.
A balloon festival that had to contend with high winds, a parade with more than 70 entries, the Arts Festival Oklahoma, and the Great Raft race were all ways Oklahomans enjoyed Labor Day.
• How will you spend Labor Day weekend this year?
For me, I’ll be staying cool and trying to get the last wall of my living room painted.
Have a safe Labor Day and enjoy more interesting stories in The Oklahoman’s Archives. 
If you come across the interesting or the odd or if you just have a question on Oklahoma history I might be able to answer, email me at


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