The History of Work and Labor Day in Brooklyn

The Schultz family making brushes in their Gowanus apartment at 476 3rd Avenue in 1912. Photo by Lewis Hine via Library of Congress


    Even in a summer as unusual as the past one has been, Labor Day will still serve as a marker of the switch from one season to the next. Begun as a day of celebration of the American worker in 1882, Brooklynites have been observing the holiday ever since. Read a few tales of the history of work and the celebration of Labor Day in Brooklyn below.

    A young man in training to be a welder at a National Youth Administration work center in Brooklyn in 1942. Photo by Fritz Henle via Library of Congress

    Brooklynites at Work (Photos)

    In honor of Labor Day we take a look at Brooklynites of the past hard at work in the borough. From children participating in family labor in the 19th century to 20th century war production, the vintage images depict the realities of making a living in the city.

    history of labor day

    Labor Day Parade Float in New York City, early 20th century. Photo via New York Department of Labor

    How Workers and the Labor Movement Gave Us Labor Day

    New York City was home to the first Labor Day parade and rally. The year was 1882 and the place was Union Square, at that time the heart of Manhattan. We’ve been celebrating the American worker with a special day for 133 years.

    brooklyn labor day strikes

    Newsboys and girl, 9-year-old Mary Machade, on Park Row, near the Brooklyn Bridge, 1910. Photo via Library of Congress

    Five Historic Brooklyn Labor Disputes

    The Labor Day holiday grew out of the 19th century labor movement — when workers banded together to powerfully advocate for better working conditions and higher wages. From newsies to beer brewers, Brooklyn has a storied past when it comes to organized labor. Here, we take a brief look back at five famous Brooklyn strikes.

    lawn tennis

    Above, the U.S. International Tennis Players of 1895. Photo via The Library of Congress

    Time Travel to Labor Day in Brooklyn 1887

    For the busy Brooklynite looking for something to do on Labor Day 1887, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle printed a list of engaging events on Sunday, September 4 — an events link for the 19th century.

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