Labor Day, Objections to

Labor Day is a holiday of long standing in Nebraska. Indeed, the law in this state, signed in 1889, follows by only two years the first state legislation (the Oregon law of 1887) recognizing Labor Day as a legal holiday. Nebraska’s law was introduced in the twenty-first regular session of the state legislature by Senator F. T. Ransom, a thirty-seven-year-old Republican lawyer from Nebraska City. The bill passed without opposition and became a law when it was approved by Governor John M. Thayer on March 29, 1889.

The Nebraska State Journal of Lincoln was not quite sure that establishing such a holiday would be a good precedent. Said the Journal on January 17, 1889, “Just exactly what a ‘labor day’ is wanted for does not appear, but there is no particular objection so far as THE JOURNAL perceives to the request if any large number of citizens really desire another legal holiday. The women suffragists may next demand a ‘woman’s day,’ the saloons a ‘whisky day’ and the prohibs a ‘temperance day,’ and so on until every organization in the land shall have a legal holiday all to itself. . . . But it would soon become fatiguing to keep the run of all our legal holidays if every society demanded one for itself.”

Nebraska’s labor organizations made extensive plans for celebrating the state’s new holiday, particularly in its two principal cities. In Omaha, the first Labor Day saw the opening of the Omaha Fair, a week-long exposition which included agricultural exhibits, horse races, and as the feature attraction, a daily balloon ascension. Despite a heavy storm during the early morning, a gigantic parade was staged from the downtown area to Haskall’s Park, where the assembled throng heard a speech by Senator Charles H. Van Wyck.

In Lincoln, the holiday was celebrated with equal enthusiasm, although the early morning rain brought much anxiety to those who were planning the festivities. Principal speaker on the capital city program was Senator Ransom. Also on the program was William Jennings Bryan. Congress declared Labor Day a federal holiday in 1894, and all states and territories now recognize the first Monday in September as a legal holiday.

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