I've Been Workin' on the Railroad...

Admit it, you read the title of today's post and immediately started singing.  You know you did!  Well, in honor of the Labor Day Weekend....I thought we'd all pay homage to the origins of the day!

So what does working on the railroad have to do with Labor Day?  Well, according the to the History Channel, everything!  Read on to find out more about the history of the holiday and enjoy a little railway-inspired eye-candy for the trip!

Vintage 9 ct. yellow gold Locomotive Steam Engine Train charm from 1978 - eBay, $194

Labor Day is the first Monday in September every year and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It's a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength and prosperity of the nation.

But, in the late 1800s, at the height of the Industrial Revolution in the United States, the average American worked 12-hour days, seven-day weeks, barely making 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 worked in extremely unsafe working conditions, with insufficient access to fresh air, sanitary facilities or breaks.

Brass Railroad Spike Cuff - Giles & Brother, $88.

As manufacturing increasingly replaced agriculture as the primary source 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 the poor working conditions and to compel employers to renegotiate hours and pay.  Many of these events turned violent during this period.  Including the infamous Haymarket Riot of 1886, where 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.

Masonic & Order of Railway Conductors Pendant Charm Fob in antique 10k yellow gold - Vintage Masonry, $139.99

The idea of a “workingmen’s holiday” 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 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.

Vintage Railroad Lantern Charm with red glass center in 10k yellow gold - MS Jewelers, $185.

On June 26, the American Railroad Union, led by Eugene V. Debs, called for a boycott of all Pullman railway cars, crippling railway traffic nationwide.  To break the strike, the federal government under President Grover Cleveland 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, Congress passed an act making Labor Day a legal holiday.
Trestle Link Bracelet - Black Jade & Diamonds in 18k yellow & white gold - Jane Wullbrandt.

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 it represents the end of the summer and the start of the back-to-school season.

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