According to the Department of Labor - Labor Day is "dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers" and their contributions to the "strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country."
During the industrial revolution it was common for men, women and children to work 12 hour days, 6 and 7 days a week just to make a living. Without many labor laws in place the terrible working conditions forced many workers to band together forming unions.
On September 5, 1882, in an attempt to voice their demands for a better way of life, some 10,000 of over-worked laborers marched together through the streets of New York City, creating the first-ever Labor Day Parade.
There is debate as to who's idea Labor Day was... but I won't bore you with the specifics...(you can read more about it here). Starting in the 1890's there was increasing legislation movement for states to adopt and institute Labor Day to honor their hardworking citizens. Slowly more and more states adopted the idea.
By 1894, 29 states had adopted the holiday to honor their workers. On June 28 of that year, Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September of each year a legal holiday in the District of Columbia and the territories.
So there you have it... kind of a boring history, but a history nonetheless.
Teachers, prepare your lesson plans. Students find your thinking caps. The school year is upon us. Good luck to all.
For more information about Labor Day visit the Department of Labor website: http://www.dol.gov/OPA/ABOUTDOL/LABORDAY.HTM
Also - the history channel has a micro-site dedicated to Labor Day with images and videos: http://www.history.com/minisites/laborday/