Happy Birthday Labor Day 2019!
Do you wonder why I started with a birthday wish for the Labor Day Holiday? Well, it’s a very simple explanation: On September 2, 2019 (first Monday of September) it will be the 125th anniversary of Labor Day being celebrated as a national holiday.
The request for such a holiday first came through a municipal ordinance passed in 1885 and 1886. From this there was a movement to secure state legislation. This was first introduced to New York state, but the first state to pass this was Oregon on February 21, 1887. During that year, four more states – Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York passed legislature to create a Labor Day holiday. By the end of the 1880s Connecticut, Nebraska, and Pennsylvania had passed the legislation, and by 1894, 23 more states had adopted the holiday. On June 28, 1894, Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September of each year a legal holiday.
That is correct – 125 years ago Labor Day became a National Holiday, but do you wonder if Westclox celebrated Labor Day? Well, let’s dig into all the Westclox records I could find to get the correct answer.
When the Labor Day holiday legislation was passed in 1894 Western Clock Company (not yet called Westclox) was under the direction of Mr. F. W. Matthiessen, president and Mr. Ernst Roth, general manager. They were both extremely competent and loyal to their employees and to the government. I haven’t been able to find copies of any written work orders beginning in 1894 and continuing for nearly 24 years, but 101 years ago I found discussion of Labor Day in a Tick Talk magazine!
Tick Talk magazine was first published in 1913, but we are not fortunate enough to have a full year of the magazine in our possession. The same goes for 1914. In 1915 and 1916 the magazine was not published, but it began again in 1917, where we don’t have the September copy. Finally, in September 1918, I was able to find numerous mentions of how employees enjoyed the Labor Day holiday. Please note that September 1918 was 2 months before the end of World War I, but even the war did not halt the celebration of Labor Day.
Moving forward in all of the Tick Talk magazines that we have for the month of September, I’m proud to say that Westclox employees were always given the day off to celebrate Labor Day. Many employees just relaxed at home, went on a picnic, went fishing, or went on a little 3-day trip. That’s right, it was always a 3 day weekend.
Now, I must add that World War II caused an unlikely celebration of the Labor Day holiday. I’ve located such a mention by several other companies in the United States, and Labor Day was not celebrated with a day off during 1942, 1943, 1944, and 1945. However, it was the Labor Day weekend of 1945 that became the official end of World War II.
On Sunday, September 2, 1945, documents ending the World War II were signed
“Today the guns are silent. A great tragedy has ended.” Gen. Doulas MacArthur
Yes, Labor Day was again celebrated by Westclox beginning in 1946 and continuing until the Peru, IL factory closed in 1980.
As I continued to research the rest of the Tick Talks we have, I found a great illustration inside the cover of the September 1964 magazine.
I have no records of whether or not General Time Corporation (parent company of Westclox since 1931) celebrated Labor Day regularly until the final closing in 2000.
It has been 125 years since the Labor Day holiday was signed into effect by President Grover Cleveland. Western Clock Company, which later adopted the name Westclox, was always following the simple good plans they had adopted earlier, especially the “treat your employees like your family”! I actually feel that in spite of written proof Westclox celebrated Labor Day every year, except during World War II.
To close, I will share a news clipping from the September 1945 Tick Talk.
Have a safe, healthy and happy Labor Day.