History Channel’s Labor Day Beginnings

Observed on the first Monday in September, Labor Day pays tribute to the contributions and achievements of American workers. It was created by the labor movement in the late 19th century and became a federal holiday in 1894.

FANNING THE BARBECUE hot classic barbecue babe by vintage pinup artist Gil Elvgren to celebrate hot hot summer Labor Day

Fanning the Barbecue by Gil Elvgren

Labor Day also symbolizes the end of summer for many Americans, and is celebrated with parties, parades and athletic events.

Labor Day, an annual celebration of workers and their achievements, originated during one of American labor history’s most dismal chapters. In the late 1800s, at the height of the Industrial Revolution in the United States, the average American worked 12-hour days and seven-day weeks in order to eke out a basic living. Despite restrictions in some states, children as young as 5 or 6 toiled in mills, factories and mines across the country, earning a fraction of their adult counterparts’ wages. People of all ages, particularly the very poor and recent immigrants, often faced extremely unsafe working conditions, with insufficient access to fresh air, sanitary facilities and breaks.Child Labor is not working

As manufacturing increasingly supplanted agriculture as the wellspring of American employment, labor unions, which had first appeared in the late 18th century, grew more prominent and vocal. They began organizing strikes and rallies to protest poor conditions and compel employers to renegotiate hours and pay. Many of these events turned violent during this period, including the infamous Haymarket Riot of 1886, in which several Chicago policemen and workers were killed. Others gave rise to longstanding traditions: On September 5, 1882, 10,000 workers took unpaid time off to march from City Hall to Union Square in New York City, holding the first Labor Day parade in U.S. history.

The idea of a “workingmen’s holiday,” celebrated on the first Monday in September, caught on in other industrial centers across the country, and many states passed legislation recognizing it.Congress would not legalize the holiday until 12 years later, when a watershed moment in American labor history brought workers’ rights squarely into the public’s view. On May 11, 1894, employees of the Pullman Palace Car Company in Chicago went on strike to protest wage cuts and the firing of union representatives.

In 1894, people throughout the nation relied on such publications as Leslie's Illustrated Weekly to keep up with the drama that was unfolding with the Pullman strike in Chicago.

In 1894, people throughout the nation relied on such publications as Leslie’s Illustrated Weekly to keep up with the drama that was unfolding with the Pullman strike in Chicago.

On June 26, the American Railroad Union, led by Eugene V. Debs, called for a boycott of all Pullman railway cars, crippling railroad traffic nationwide. To break the strike, the federal government dispatched troops to Chicago, unleashing a wave of riots that resulted in the deaths of more than a dozen workers. In the wake of this massive unrest and in an attempt to repair ties with American workers, Congress passed an act making Labor Day a legal holiday in the District of Columbia and the territories.More than a century later, the true founder of Labor Day has yet to be identified.

Many credit Peter J. McGuire, cofounder of the American Federation of Labor, while others have suggested that Matthew Maguire, a secretary of the Central Labor Union, first proposed the holiday. Labor Day is still celebrated in cities and towns across the United States with parades, picnics, barbecues, fireworks displays and other public gatherings. For many Americans, particularly children and young adults, it represents the end of the summer and the start of the back-to-school season.

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One Daughter’s Wish to Honor her Father

Sonora Smart Dodd

Sonora Smart Dodd – The woman behind Father’s Day

In 1898, a young teen named Sonora Louise Smart lost her mother after childbirth to Sonora’s fifth sibling.  The chore of raising six children was left to husband and Civil War veteran William Jackson Smart on a rural farm in eastern Washington State.  He lived long enough to see Father’s Day as the beloved holiday that we celebrate today.

In 1909, following a Sunday morning sermon about Mother’s Day, she questioned why fathers were not honored.  She mad it her mission to establish a Father’s Day, wishing to celebrate it on her father’s birthday on June 5.   On June 19, 1910, Father’s Day was observed locally in Spokane, Washington.  Her efforts were, at times, met with jokes and mocking.  It wasn’t until a noted political leader William Jennings Bryan began to support her cause.

In 1916, United States President Woodrow Wilson approved the bill to establish an official Father’s Day.  In 1924, a formal proclamation issued by President Calvin Coolidge designated the third Sunday in June as Father’s Day and then in 1966, President Lyndon Johnson signed it as a presidential proclamation.  It wasn’t until 1972, Father’s Day was created as a permeant national occasion by President Richard Nixon.

In 1978 at the age of 96, Sonora Louise Smart Dodd died seeing her dream become a reality — honoring her father, her husband and other men like them.

Honoring Memorial Day in the US

Memorial Day is observed on the last Monday of May. It was formerly known as Decoration Day and commemorates all men and women, who have died in military service for the United States. Many people visit cemeteries and memorials on Memorial Day and it is traditionally seen as the start of the summer season.

What do people do?
It is traditional to fly the flag of the United States at half mast from dawn until noon. Many people visit cemeteries and memorials, particularly to honor those who have died in military service. Many volunteers place an American flag on each grave in national cemeteries. Memorial Day is combined with Jefferson Davis’ Birthday in Mississippi.

Image

Jefferson Finis Davis was the President of the Confederate States of America during the entire Civil War, 1861 to 1865.

Memorial Day has become less of an occasion of remembrance. Many people choose to hold picnics, sports events and family gatherings on this weekend. This day is traditionally seen as the start of the summer season for cultural events. For the fashion conscious, it is seen as acceptable to wear white clothing, particularly shoes from Memorial Day until Labor Day. However, fewer and fewer people follow this rule and many wear white clothing throughout the year.

Public life
Memorial Day is a federal holiday. All non-essential Government offices are closed, as are schools, businesses and other organizations. Most public transit systems do not run on their regular schedule. Many people see Memorial Day weekend as an opportunity to go on a short vacation or visit family or friends. This can cause some congestion on highways and at airports.

Background
Memorial Day started as an event to honor Union soldiers, who had died during the American Civil War. It was inspired by the way people in the Southern states honored their dead. After World War I, it was extended to include all men and women, who died in any war or military action.

Soldier decorates tombstones at Arlington National Cemetery with American flags

A soldier honors his fellow countrymen by decorating their tombstones with the American flag at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia.

Memorial Day was originally known as Decoration Day. The current name for this day did not come into use until after World War II. Decoration Day and then Memorial Day used to be held on May 30, regardless of the day of the week, on which it fell. In 1968, the Uniform Holidays Bill was passed as part of a move to use federal holidays to create three-day weekends. This meant that that, from 1971, Memorial Day holiday has been officially observed on the last Monday in May. However, it took a longer period for all American states to recognize the new date.

Dolley Madison’s Cheese Straws

The following recipe is credited to First Lady Dolley Madison.

First Lady Dolley Madison

First Lady Dolley Madison

Dolley Payne Todd Madison (May 20, 1768 – July 12, 1849) was the wife of James Madison, President of the United States from 1809 to 1817.

According to Wikipedia, she was noted for her social gifts, which boosted her husband’s popularity as President. In this way, she did much to define the role of the President’s spouse, known only much later by the title First Lady – a function she had sometimes performed earlier for the widowed Thomas Jefferson.

Dolley Madison also helped to furnish the newly constructed White House. When the British set fire to it in 1814, she was credited with saving the classic portrait of George Washington.

In widowhood, she often lived in poverty, partially relieved by the sale of her late husband’s papers.”

Ingredients: 

  • 4 c. sharp Cheddar cheese, finely grated, room temperature
  • 1 c. butter, room temperature
  • 3 c. flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp. paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. dried parsley
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp. white pepper

Directions: In a bowl, cream cheese and butter together. Add remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly to form dough.

Roll out dough on a floured board to 1/4″ thickness.  Using a sharp knife, cut into strips about 1/2″ x 4″ wide.  Place strips on an un-greased baking sheet.

Bake 400°F for 8 minutes until golden brown.

Yield: 6 dozen

Calories:  70 calories per serving

Source: Famous White House Recipes, The American Collection Cookbooks, Volume 1

The History of Armed Forces Day courtesy of “History by Zim”

The blog “History by Zim: Beyond the Textbooks” offers an informational account of how this honor began.

 

On July 26, 1947, President Harry S. Truman signed the National Security Act of 1947 which consolidated the military branches under the Department of Defense’s control.  In late August 1949, …

Source: The History of Armed Forces Day

Dolley Madison Layer Cake

Dolley_Madison 1804 by Gilbert Stuart

First Lady Dolley Madison (1804) Portrait by Gilbert Stuart

In honor of the The First Lady of the United States Dolley Madison’s birthday, let’s celebrate with a layer cake!   The recipe is courtesy of Cokie Roberts’ book “Ladies of Liberty: The Women Who Shaped Our Nation.”   It can also be found on Martha Stewart’s website.

Dolley Madison was born May 20, 1768.  She is most famously known for saving the portrait of George Washington during the War of 1812.

She also created the role of First Lady.  Dolley was instrumental in hosting official functions on behalf of the President, at first widower Thomas Jefferson and later for her husband, James Madison.   She also contributed to the development and decoration of the White House.

Dolly Madison was the only First Lady given an honorary seat on the floor of Congress.

 

 

Yield: One 8-inch Layer Cake

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, plus more for pans
  • 8 large egg whites
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup cornstarch
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • Carmel Icing*

 

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter four 8-by-2-inch round cake pans, set aside.

  2. Beat egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until stiff peaks form; set aside.

  3. In the clean bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugar. With the mixer running, slowly add milk; mix until well combined. Sift together flour and cornstarch; slowly add to mixer and beat until well combined. Add vanilla and mix well.

  4. Gently fold in reserved egg whites and divide evenly between prepared pans. Bake until cake springs back when lightly touched, 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool in cake pans on wire racks, about 10 minutes. Remove from pans and let cool completely on wire racks.

  5. Place 4 strips of parchment paper around perimeter of a serving plate or lazy Susan. Place the first layer on the cake plate. Pour over about 1/2 cup icing, spreading evenly to cover. Repeat process with 2 more layers. Repeat process with two more layers. Place the remaining layer on top of the third layer and cover cake completely with remaining icing.

*Carmel Icing

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups light-brown sugar
  • 1 cup light cream
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions:

Whisk together sugar, cream, and butter in a medium bowl. Set bowl over (but not touching) simmering water, cook until thickened, about 20 minutes. Remove bowl from heat; stir in vanilla. Let cool.

Cokie Roberts

Image courtesy of Cokie Roberts, provided by the Office of the Historian, U.S. House of Representatives

History of Thanksgiving in America

n 1621, the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest feast that is acknowledged today as one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in the colonies. For more than two centuries, days of thanksgiving were celebrated by individual colonies and states. It wasn’t until 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, that President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day to be held each November.

THANKSGIVING AT PLYMOUTH
In September 1620, a small ship called the Mayflower left Plymouth, England, carrying 102 passengers—an assortment of religious separatists seeking a new home where they could freely practice their faith and other individuals lured by the promise of prosperity and land ownership in the New World. After a treacherous and uncomfortable crossing that lasted 66 days, they dropped anchor near the tip of Cape Cod, far north of their intended destination at the mouth of the Hudson River. One month later, the Mayflower crossed Massachusetts Bay, where the Pilgrims, as they are now commonly known, began the work of establishing a village at Plymouth.

Did You Know?
Lobster, seal and swans were on the Pilgrims’ menu.

Squanto

Squanto a.k.a. Tisquantum

Throughout that first brutal winter, most of the colonists remained on board the ship, where they suffered from exposure, scurvy and outbreaks of contagious disease. Only half of the Mayflower’s original passengers and crew lived to see their first New England spring. In March, the remaining settlers moved ashore, where they received an astonishing visit from an Abenaki Indian who greeted them in English. Several days later, he returned with another Native American, Squanto, a member of the Pawtuxet tribe who had been kidnapped by an English sea captain and sold into slavery before escaping to London and returning to his homeland on an exploratory expedition. Squanto taught the Pilgrims, weakened by malnutrition and illness, how to cultivate corn, extract sap from maple trees, catch fish in the rivers and avoid poisonous plants. He also helped the settlers forge an alliance with the Wampanoag, a local tribe, which would endure for more than 50 years and tragically remains one of the sole examples of harmony between European colonists and Native Americans.

In November 1621, after the Pilgrims’ first corn harvest proved successful, Governor William Bradford organized a celebratory feast and invited a group of the fledgling colony’s Native American allies, including the Wampanoag chief Massasoit. Now remembered as American’s “first Thanksgiving”—although the Pilgrims themselves may not have used the term at the time—the festival lasted for three days. While no record exists of the historic banquet’s exact menu, the Pilgrim chronicler Edward Winslow wrote in his journal that Governor Bradford sent four men on a “fowling” mission in preparation for the event, and that the Wampanoag guests arrived bearing five deer. Historians have suggested that many of the dishes were likely prepared using traditional Native American spices and cooking methods. Because the Pilgrims had no oven and the Mayflower’s sugar supply had dwindled by the fall of 1621, the meal did not feature pies, cakes or other desserts, which have become a hallmark of contemporary celebrations.

THANKSGIVING BECOMES AN OFFICIAL HOLIDAY
Pilgrims held their second Thanksgiving celebration in 1623 to mark the end of a long drought that had threatened the year’s harvest and prompted Governor Bradford to call for a religious fast. Days of fasting and thanksgiving on an annual or occasional basis became common practice in other New England settlements as well. During the American Revolution, the Continental Congress designated one or more days of thanksgiving a year, and in 1789 George Washington issued the first Thanksgiving proclamation by the national government of the United States; in it, he called upon Americans to express their gratitude for the happy conclusion to the country’s war of independence and the successful ratification of the U.S. Constitution. His successors John Adams and James Madison also designated days of thanks during their presidencies.

In 1817, New York became the first of several states to officially adopt an annual Thanksgiving holiday; each celebrated it on a different day, however, and the American South remained largely unfamiliar with the tradition. In 1827, the noted magazine editor and prolific writer Sarah Josepha Hale—author, among countless other things, of the nursery rhyme “Mary Had a Little Lamb”—launched a campaign to establish Thanksgiving as a national holiday. For 36 years, she published numerous editorials and sent scores of letters to governors, senators, presidents and other politicians. Abraham Lincoln finally heeded her request in 1863, at the height of the Civil War, in a proclamation entreating all Americans to ask God to “commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife” and to “heal the wounds of the nation.” He scheduled Thanksgiving for the final Thursday in November, and it was celebrated on that day every year until 1939, when Franklin D. Roosevelt moved the holiday up a week in an attempt to spur retail sales during the Great Depression. Roosevelt’s plan, known derisively as Franksgiving, was met with passionate opposition, and in 1941 the president reluctantly signed a bill making Thanksgiving the fourth Thursday in November.

THANKSGIVING TRADITIONS
In many American households, the Thanksgiving celebration has lost much of its original religious significance; instead, it now centers on cooking and sharing a bountiful meal with family and friends. Turkey, a Thanksgiving staple so ubiquitous it has become all but synonymous with the holiday, may or may not have been on offer when the Pilgrims hosted the inaugural feast in 1621. Today, however, nearly 90 percent of Americans eat the bird—whether roasted, baked or deep-fried—on Thanksgiving, according to the National Turkey Federation. Other traditional foods include stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie. Volunteering is a common Thanksgiving Day activity, and communities often hold food drives and host free dinners for the less fortunate.

Parades have also become an integral part of the holiday in cities and towns across the United States. Presented by Macy’s department store since 1924, New York City’s Thanksgiving Day parade is the largest and most famous, attracting some 2 to 3 million spectators along its 2.5-mile route and drawing an enormous television audience. It typically features marching bands, performers, elaborate floats conveying various celebrities and giant balloons shaped like cartoon characters.

U.S. President Harry Truman "pardons" a turkey from Thanksgiving dinner

Pictured here on Nov. 16, 1949, President Harry Truman reportedly was the first U.S. President to “pardon” a turkey from Thanksgiving Dinner. (AP Photo)

Beginning in the mid-20th century and perhaps even earlier, the president of the United States has “pardoned” one or two Thanksgiving turkeys each year, sparing the birds from slaughter and sending them to a farm for retirement. A number of U.S. governors also perform the annual turkey pardoning ritual.

THANKSGIVING CONTROVERSIES
For some scholars, the jury is still out on whether the feast at Plymouth really constituted the first Thanksgiving in the United States. Indeed, historians have recorded other ceremonies of thanks among European settlers in North America that predate the Pilgrims’ celebration. In 1565, for instance, the Spanish explorer Pedro Menéndez de Avilé invited members of the local Timucua tribe to a dinner in St. Augustine, Florida, after holding a mass to thank God for his crew’s safe arrival. On December 4, 1619, when 38 British settlers reached a site known as Berkeley Hundred on the banks of Virginia’s James River, they read a proclamation designating the date as “a day of thanksgiving to Almighty God.”

Some Native Americans and others take issue with how the Thanksgiving story is presented to the American public, and especially to schoolchildren. In their view, the traditional narrative paints a deceptively sunny portrait of relations between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag people, masking the long and bloody history of conflict between Native Americans and European settlers that resulted in the deaths of millions. Since 1970, protesters have gathered on the day designated as Thanksgiving at the top of Cole’s Hill, which overlooks Plymouth Rock, to commemorate a “National Day of Mourning.” Similar events are held in other parts of the country.

National Day of Mourning plaque

Since Thanksgiving Day 1970, the town of Plymouth, MA has hosted this event where Native Americans demonstrate the events following the Pilgrim’s arrival.

THANKSGIVING’S ANCIENT ORIGINS
Although the American concept of Thanksgiving developed in the colonies of New England, its roots can be traced back to the other side of the Atlantic. Both the Separatists who came over on the Mayflower and the Puritans who arrived soon after brought with them a tradition of providential holidays—days of fasting during difficult or pivotal moments and days of feasting and celebration to thank God in times of plenty.

As an annual celebration of the harvest and its bounty, moreover, Thanksgiving falls under a category of festivals that spans cultures, continents and millennia. In ancient times, the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans feasted and paid tribute to their gods after the fall harvest. Thanksgiving also bears a resemblance to the ancient Jewish harvest festival of Sukkot. Finally, historians have noted that Native Americans had a rich tradition of commemorating the fall harvest with feasting and merrymaking long before Europeans set foot on their shores.