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First Monday in September

No matter how fast or slow any particular summer seems to be, it always seems to catch The Legal Genealogist by surprise.

It’s the first Monday in September.

Here in the United States, today is the first holiday of the fall:

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the first Monday of September in each year, being the day celebrated and known as Labor’s Holiday, is hereby made a legal public holiday, to all intents and purposes …1

Today, we call it Labor Day — a day to celebrate the efforts of all those who came before us to give us amazing things like eight-hour work days, 40-hour weeks, paid vacations, employee health benefits, worker safety laws, compensation for on-the-job injuries and so many of the other myriad benefits we think of today as perfectly ordinary and routine.

Each of these was fought for by our working ancestors and the unions they formed to stand up to big business. They fought for them, and sometimes died for them.

I think of my own German immigrant grandfather, trained as a locksmith, whose job opportunities in his new country dwindled as the Depression deepened, and who spent much of his working life her in the steel mills of Illinois — hot, dirty, difficult labor.

steel mill

Labor that undoubtedly contributed to his cancer death at the age of 54.

And labor that made it possible for his son to become an engineer, and his grandchildren doctors and lawyers and college professors and more.

So how do we, as genealogists, honor those who put the laboring oar in for our families?

Spending some time today looking at the work they did, perhaps…

We can look through the images of the Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division and find a photo of the work they did… like the one above of a steel worker in Illinois.2

We can look at some of the labor-related publications in the Library of Congress’ historic American newspaper collection Chronicling America.

We can head over to ArchiveGrid and do a search for “labor unions” or specific job types to find collections we might not have been aware of before.

Even Ancestry has free access to labor-related records for today (until 11:59 p.m. EDT).

We can honor those whose labor gave us what we have today by spending some of our time this holiday taking a closer look at the labor they did then.

Cite/link to this post: Judy G. Russell, “Labor Day 2021,” The Legal Genealogist ( : posted 6 Sep 2021).


  1. “An Act Making Labor Day a legal holiday,” 28 Stat. 96 (28 June 1894).
  2. Stanley Kubrick, “Steel worker in mill as molten steel spills from vat, in Chicago, Illinois,” LOC Prints & Photographs ( : accessed 6 Sep 2021).
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